FOLLOWING WIDESPREAD critical acclaim on its national tour earlier this year, ORion Productions, in association with Blue Moon Theatre Company, presents another opportunity to see The Woolgatherer.
Written by Emmy-winning American author William Mastrosimone, The Woolgatherer has been hailed by The Sunday Times as “triumphant theatre” and by Entertainment.ie as “mesmerising”, this theatrical highlight returns to the Town Hall Theatre next week, having sold out the Town Hall studio during a week-long run in May.
Set in South Philadelphia, the play centres around the chance meeting of Rose and Cliff, two ordinary people searching for love. Rose is a shy dimestore salesgirl whose life centres around reveries and daydreams while Cliff is a hard-working, hard-drinking, truck driver. The duo are played respectively by Sinead O’Riordan (who also produces the play ) and Michael Hough while direction is by David Byrne.
When The Woolgatherer last visited Galway I wrote a review of the production but pressure of space meant it could not be published at the time. With the play’s return to the Town Hall we can now dust off that review:
A standing ovation greeted the final curtain of The Woolgatherer, an accolade fully deserved by its two performers, Michael Hough and Sinéad O’Riordan.
Hough plays the brash, bearded, burly bear of a trucker, Cliff, who, after his rig breaks down in Philadelphia, chances to meet shy and fragile dreamer, Rose, who invites him back to her dingy apartment.
They are a chalk-and-cheese couple and as they try to get to know each other things are often fraught; Rose is repeatedly alarmed by Cliff’s loudness and coarseness while Cliff is exasperated by her nervy skittishness. Yet in spite of all, as the evening progresses an unlikely affinity and mutual affection does grow between them.
Mastrosimone’s script can switch from pained or scarifying intensity to quiet tenderness and laugh-out-loud humour. There is a wonderful lyrical soliloquy from Cliff about the rigours of his work that has all the surging momentum of a truck barrelling down the highway.
Another memorable scene sees Rose and Cliff trying to communicate from opposite sides of her door, Cliff’s large bearded head squeezed comically through the small gap permitted by the latch-chain.
Under David Byrne’s fine direction both O’Riordain and Hough turn in gripping performances, finding the different emotional shades and textures of their respective characters. Becky Gardiner’s set, with its flaked paint and rusted radiators, certainly evoked an impoverished apartment though perhaps the grimness could have been offset a little by some small touch of beauty – after all, be they ever so poor or humble, almost everyone will have some visual decorations in their home.
Co-produced by O’Riordan’s own ORion Productions and Byrne’s Blue Moon Theatre Company, The Woolgatherer makes for an emotionally absorbing and rewarding evening of theatre.
The Woolgatherer plays the Town Hall on Tuesday September 10 and Wednesday 11 at 8pm. Tickets are €15/12 and available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie