Review: ‘Last Days Of A Reluctant Tyrant’ at the Abbey Theatre

Last Days of a Reluctant Tyrant

Very late with this review, but last month the Abbey Theatre invited me along as part of a group of bloggers to see Last Days Of A Reluctant Tyrant.

The long shadow of the Irish property market is cast across Tom Murphy’s latest offering, Last Days of A Reluctant Tyrant. The story is decidedly Learish – Arina, an old women divides her land amongst her sons. One, a drunkard seeking comfort and solace he was never shown by his mother. A second, a silent son mindful of the despair his mother wrecks on their microcosm. A third and her favourite, Peter, a preening greedmonster that the seminary lost with a thousand more mouths of avarice than his mother’s.

Borne of a craggy mountain, Arina married into monied family and now she makes a choice. To whom should she bequeath her lands to in life?

Marie Mullen burns a hole in the stage as the Arina, a woman blinded both by fear into preserving the family fortune and pride in her accomplishments to make the wrong decision. Murphy’s Arina could almost be a “Celtic Tiger Ireland-shaped” crone – blind and wistful looking back at the mistakes made by blindly trusting in greed.

Moving past Mullen’s soulful portrayal of Arina, Declan Conlon’s Peter steals virtually every scene he’s in. He’s a long way from Fair City’s Torlough, as fucked-up Peter – a sexually-repressed bible-quoting sociopath, hellbent on bedding servants and his niece with equal aplomb. Peter is a hot concentration of a terrible hunger to dominate his family and community with every strand of his being; a confluence of greed and deviancy. Oh, how Conlon eats up whatever Mullen leaves of the stage.

While terribly conscious of its literary forebearers, Lear and The Golovlyov Family, Murphy’s piece finds enough middle ground with the current economic and political malaise to remain vital and easily accessible to the masses. My plus one even noted nods to Rochester.

On the directorship, the play seems oddly paced. By the time the interval came, I felt the emotional toil of the running several marathons. I was a little worn by the sheer ferocity of the performances. The resumption after the interval was by contrast, a muted affair. A pointed change of pace to play with the audience too much for them to swallow? The set was bare-bones, almost a nod to our rangy nerves.

Pacing aside, the play was a wonderful piece and a burning confessional on greed and the duplicity of sociopaths.

Last Days of A Reluctant Tyrant ends its run at the Abbey tomorrow night.

Picture by Ros Kavanagh. Shamefully borrowed from the Abbey Theatre site.

July 10th, 2009 at 8:51 pm • Filed in Culture


2 Comments to “Review: ‘Last Days Of A Reluctant Tyrant’ at the Abbey Theatre”

  1. Last Days of a Reluctant Tyrant « An Introspective Outlook Says:

    […] Lexia has blogged about it too. […]

  2. Sarah Says:

    Nice review 🙂 Is that your picture? I like muchly!

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