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A CurtainUp London Review
The Night Alive
In Scene Two, Doc (Michael McElhatton) arrives. He works with Tommy in Tommy's removal business and is used to staying occasionally at the house (or in the van) when they need to start early. The presence of Aimee interferes with this. Doc is asked why he is called Doc and inexplicably tells us, it's just short for Brian. Doc is said to be several minutes behind at processing events which inspires the comedy.
Tommy's Uncle Maurice is the house owner and when the noise levels get too high will bang on the floor above but he is essentially a tolerant and kind landlord who misses his wife. Aimee is very unforthcoming and doesn't disclose much about herself but Doc tells Tommy something about Aimee's past. Doc, Aimee and Tommy dance to Marvin Gaye 's "What's Going On" in a joyful, synchronised moment. Just as everyone is starting to feel comfortable with each other and, when Doc is alone in the flat, a violent man Kenneth (Brian Gleeson) from Aimee's past arrives wielding a hammer, in a disturbing scene of incomprehensible battering.
Despite the violence and the seediness of the setting in Soutra Gilmour's detailed set, there is affection in this story of friendship and even romance as Tommy gets attached to Aimee and everyone finds sanctuary in Maurice's house. However she leaves and when she comes back it is to take his money so she can pay what she owes Kenneth. McPherson's characters are well drawn and the performances are spot on in conveying what holds us to a place and what makes us leave.
Ciaran Hinds' Tommy is a big lumbering man with a heart of Irish gold and we hate to see him taken for a ride by a young, pretty woman. But that's not the end of the story which I cannot reveal here. Tommy has left his marriage behind and is living a bachelor type existence hanging out with Doc. Hinds' performance is touching and at times socially awkward. He looks unkempt with a drooping moustache and long hair.
Conor McPherson's story continues to resonate with me days after I saw it, I think, because of its humanity. Some of this is down to the powerful performances but much is the skill of the storyteller.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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