The first thing that strikes you about Druid’s New Electric Ballroom is the shockingly spare stage design. The lavish promises of the play’s title are dispelled immediately upon seeing the set. Immense grey walls wrap a raked floor and bare furniture. And with that misconception firmly in place, the gaudy colours of hope, regret and habit splash across the stage in Walsh’s absurdist tragedy.
The setting, while indisputably Irish, is not any physical place, but that recognisable hinterland that borders Beckett and Ionesco, a place where ideas wear the flesh of people. 3 female siblings are trapped in an epic regurgitation of their memories of the New Electric Ballroom. For the youngest, her incarceration in these memories is vicarious- she is so familiar with the stories of a place she’s never been she prompts the elder sisters in their faltering and reluctant retellings of the dashed hopes of romance.
It was interesting to hear some of the audience react to a repeated monologue: its first rendition delivered in a (virtuoso) rush by Rosaleen Linehan, almost in attempt to purge it, had passed many by. The writing is at times so dense that the constant repetition is welcome, allowing first a taste and then a savour of the brilliantly mundane dialogue.
All the performances are strong, but Mikel Murfi and Rosaleen Linehan deserve special mentions, and the play contains one of the most breathtaking moments of theatrical transformation I’ve ever seen.
Enda Walsh is this generation’s Brian Friel.