Theatre review: New Electric Ballroom (Druid Theatre Co)

DRUID’S EXCITING Galway Arts Festival season of Enda Walsh work got off to a compelling start on Monday with the Irish premiere of his “coiled, dark, glitter-dusted fable”, The New Electric Ballroom, which Walsh also directed.

The play was conceived as a distaff companion piece to Walsh’s Walworth Farce (which Druid also staged in 2006 ) and while it has clear parallels to that work, there are also echoes of authors like Beckett and Ionesco, and Tom Murphy’s Bailegangaire, in the way that storytelling forms such a huge part of the action.

The play presents three sisters, Breda (Rosaleen Linehan ), Clara (Val Lilley ), and Ada (Catherine Walsh ), who have locked themselves away from the world, their only visitor being the “lumpen, lonely” fishmonger Patsy (Mikel Murfi ).

Under the relentless driving of Ada, the two elder sisters are compelled to re-enact a fateful night from years before at the eponymous New Electric Ballroom where each of them experienced crushing romantic disappointment at the capricious hand of showband singer Rollie Royle.

It’s an original, fierce, funny and at times very affecting piece on language, love, and loss. When Patsy dons a showband suit and breaks into song to serenade Ada, only to falter afterwards and flee, Walsh makes it a powerful experience that is both uplifting and heartbreaking.

As director, Walsh elicits fine performances from all four members of his talented cast and the production also benefits from the input of set designer Sabine Dargent, lighting designer Sinead McKenna, and sound designer Gregory Clarke.

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