Boasting a cast of over 40 performers, the Town Hall’s community staging of Tarry Flynn
must surely be the most ambitious undertaking in the venue’s history, both in terms of its scale and in its commitment to a non-professional cast.
That ambition and commitment are both richly rewarded in a marvellous production that absorbs and entertains from first to last. The play commences with a brilliantly choreographed sequence in which the entire cast creates a shifting series of tableaux of 1930s rural life. From there, in Conall Morrison’s imaginative adaptation, we are swiftly immersed in the world of Patrick Kavanagh’s classic novel.
Poet-farmer Tarry (Barry Hopkins ), with his nose in a book, his head in the clouds, his hand on a spade and his heart yearning for love, is permanently at odds with the prosaic, hard-scrabble, small-horizoned, back-biting existence of his fellow villagers. It’s an existence constantly overshadowed by the heavy hand of the Church, embodied by Gerry Ferguson’s Fr Daly, abetted by Sean O’Maille’s Redemptorist ‘Missioner’, Fr Anthony. Meanwhile, Tarry’s widowed mother (Mary McHugh ) constantly frets over, and strives to do her best for her dreamer son and unwed daughters.
Director Andrew Flynn, aided by his co-director Niall Cleary, brilliantly brings this world to teeming life, deftly switching between full-cast crowd scenes and more intimate scenes of Tarry with his mother, siblings, neighbours and potential sweethearts.
The production is graced by many fine performances, including John McHugh’s delightful displays of comic brio as Joe Finnegan and John Magan; Seona Tully’s Mary Flynn; Gerry Ferguson’s parish priest; and Conor Geoghegan as a range of farm animals. Mary McHugh excels as Tarry’s mother, all fuss and worry while Barry Hopkins as Tarry, in his first major role, is very impressive indeed, vividly conveying Tarry’s dreaminess, frustration, insecurity and innate poeticisim.
At the risk of seeming churlish, I would add the one small cavil that in his delivery of Tarry’s closing poem, his projection could have been somewhat stronger as several lines were inaudible; but that aside this was a very fine performance.
Kudos galore are also due to the many actors who made up the chorus in what was, above all else, a fantastic ensemble performance.
Owen MacCarthaigh’s spare set, a ramped, curvy crossroads with a foregrounded ‘domestic’ space offered the perfect platform for the play’s many shifting scenes, while the live musical accompaniment, directed by Sean Moloney, also contributed mightily to what was, without doubt, a theatrical feast. Go see.
Tarry Flynn runs until Sunday, August 8th, at 8.30pm nightly in the Town Hall.