Maskers' Studio Theatreon
Monday 23rd to Saturday 28th April 2007
Review in the Southern Daily Echo
In a claustrophobic Dublin Hospital room in 1953 Mai O'Hara, "as old as the century" lies dying of liver cancer. Through the haze of her morphine riddled memory, we are taken on an emotionally riddled journey from the hopes and dreams of her youth, through her destructive marriage, to the present pain of her drink-induced illness.
In the hugely demanding central role of Mai, Hazel Burrows moves effortlessly between the exuberant daughter, reliving childhood memories of her beloved Dada, and the pale, pain-wracked creature of the present, hating and loving her once dashing husband Jack and actress daughter Joanie, both visitors to her bedside. Hers was a towering performance unlikely to be surpassed this year on the amateur stage.
In a strong supporting cast, Jan Spiers stood out as the hospital sister, always at hand to help her patient, washing her and easing her pain with morphine as Mai's life slips away.
Ron Stannard (the Director) wrote...
Our Lady of Sligo was first performed at the National in 1998 when Sebastian Barry was described as 'the new crown prince of Ireland's majestic theatrical tradition'. Certainly his dramatic verve and his extraordinary lyricism make him a worthy successor to Synge and O'Casey; and he is among a group of contemporary Irish dramatists whose work is characterised by the strength of the writing and the richness of the language. Based on the life of his grandmother, 'Our Lady' is the sixth in Barry's series of family history plays and it is full of striking poetic images that often bring humour to heartbreak.
In a depressing hospital room, Mai O'Hara lies dying, visited by her husband, daughter and the spirit of her dead father. And as she looks back at the high hopes of her youth and her flamboyant but destructive marriage, her tale of bitter disappointment shifts constantly between memory, dream and present reality. Mai was born with the century and brought up to expect a secure future that never came. And it is here that family nad national history intersect, for the disillusion that Mai and Jack feel reflects the unfulfilled expectations of Ireland's Catholic Middle-class after the establishment of self-rule and their sense of betrayal by the governments of Eamon de Valera.
In our production we have kept some of the allusions to Irish history and politics but we have focussed on the human drama; on the frank portrait of a dying woman and the damaged family she will leave behind; on her moving efforts to make sense of her life; and on the yearning, for some understanding and closure. And id it's a play about dying and the loss of small children, it's also a play about life - a life fuelled (and ultimately destroyed) by alcohol, admittedly, but a life, too, that once had passion and style, with haunting memories of dance-halls and tennis parties in darkened gardens.
'Our Lady of Sligo' is a challenging play, not least in the daunting demands it places on the central role. I have been fortunate, indeed, to have actors and a production team who have embraced and risen to those challenges so enthusiastically.
Ron Stannard, Director
|Mai O'Hara||Hazel Burrows|
|Jack, Mai's husband||Ian Morley|
|Dada, Mai's father||Bruce Atkinson|
|Little girl||Mia Carrington, Lydia Caveney|
|Production Manager||Sheana Carrington|
|Production Assistant||Caroline Irwin|
|Stage Managers||Elizabeth Davies, Alison Tebbutt|
|Scenic design and paint||Ken Spencer, Roger Lockett|
|Set Construction||Roger Lockett, Chris Byers|
|Lighting design||Nathan Weeks|
|Lighting operator||Kathryn Salmon|
|Props and furniture||Ella Lockett, Gill Buchanan|
|Publicity artwork design||John Hamon|
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