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September 17, 2007 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Shining City

Conor McPherson is a master storyteller. Shining City is an intimate little play that weaves together the lives of a therapist, his (ex) girlfriend) and his patient. A boxy room in a flat in Dublin (immaculately designed by Dennis Hearfield) becomes the setting for the tale. Shining City begins quietly, as therapist Ian (Jason Whyte) lets his patient John (Emmet Michael Kennedy) into his shabby flat. John’s wife has died and he’s started seeing her ghost. Despite claiming to not believe in ghosts, Ian has a few of his own in the form of the priesthood, wife and child he has deserted.

But this isn’t really a ghost story – it’s more about these characters, the intricacies of relationships and the lies and secrets we have. Whilst John seems sympathetic at first – grief-struck at his wife’s death – as his story unfolds, it is unclear just how we should feel about him. Ian (excellently played by Whyte) is polite and empathetic, but in his personal life we discover he’s wrestling with some pretty deep guilt. Form wise, the play is mostly a series of long scenes with a lot of sitting around and talking. Don’t get me wrong, the talking is enthralling. Must be something about the Irish-ness.

The soundscape (by Stephen Gallagher) aids the transitions between scenes and the slightly spooky moments are just that – slightly spooky but not overdone. There are no blackouts in the inspired, naturalistic lighting design (by Natasha James). The scenes kind of merge into each other, whilst the soundscape takes over.

At the end of the day, it’s really all about the acting. Jason Whyte is compelling, Miranda Manasiadis is excellent and bursting with energy – angry and loud, yet also quiet and pleading in her long argument scene with Ian. I wondered why she didn’t return to the play after that point. Emmet Michael Kennedy’s performance is gripping as he sits quietly, speaking the words of the actions that have twisted him. Sean de Burca is a little quiet and quickly spoken, but overall his indifference and coldness work well for his character. It was refreshing to see both Ian and his girlfriend played with New Zealand accents. It makes sense – they don’t need to be Irish, so why not play them as Kiwis living in Dublin?

The ending is kind of ghost-like, which I found slightly disappointing, though my date for the evening suggested it was unlikely to end any other way. McPherson is a world class playwright, and this excellent production does him justice.

Written by Conor McPherson
Directed by Danny Mulheron
Circa Studio till October 13


About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

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