Review: Pleasure Ground (Fregoli Theatre Company)

TONIGHT, WEDNESDAY May 18, Galway’s Fregoli Theatre Company wind up its successful national tour of Jarlath Tivnan’s terrific play, Pleasure Ground, at the Town Hall Theatre.

If you have not already seen the play do yourself a big favour and snap up a ticket post-haste; by turns funny and moving and always alive with insight and empathy, Pleasure Ground is a richly satisfying evening of theatre.

Set in a rural Irish town, the play opens with four friends, Evan (Jarlath Tivnan ), Brendan (Peter Shine ), Aisling (Eilish McCarthy ) and Linsey (Kate Murphy ) re-unite at the funeral of another friend, David, who has taken his life. Insurance salesman Evan and actress Aisling have returned from Dublin and London while farmer Brendan and shop-assistant Linsey are the stay-at-home duo.

The pacy opening act is largely monologue-driven as each character gives eloquent, often hilarious, vent to their private concerns, resentments, troubles and fixations with Brendan’s rhapsodic riff on the joys of Aldi a particular stand-out. The monologue format also serves to point up their inherent sense of isolation, an isolation which reflects as much on their society as on themselves as individuals.

The action is played out on Joss Clarke’s spare set comprising a swing, climbing frame, and bench evoking the playground from which the play derives its title. (One visually clunky note occurred when the climbing frame was made to stand in for a church pulpit )

In Act II, the four characters gather at this pleasure ground, where they share their feelings about David and gradually unburden themselves to each other. As the evening progresses, waspish banter and teasing slowly gives way to a sense of fellowship and hope, its warm communality supplanting that sense of isolation from Act I. Impressively, Tivnan’s writing in the dialogue-rich second act is just as insightful and involving as in the earlier soliloquies.

All four characters are credible and richly drawn, and are compellingly realised in the fine performances of Tivnan, Shine, McCarthy and Murphy. Maria Tivnan’s direction seldom misses a beat, bringing out all the play’s wealth of laughter, poignancy and emotion.

At the final curtain the cast and production received a well deserved standing ovation. Bravo Fregoli!

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