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The Last Days Of A Reluctant Tyrant

Published by: Irish Reviewers on 1st Jul 2009 | View all blogs by Irish Reviewers

‘Arina’-The reluctant tyrant in question, a poor servant girl, who marries into a family a class above her. Who then works tirelessly, to build a property and land empire, ruling her new family with a ‘velvet-glove’ that only a true matriarch can.

Spawning three sons, Steven, Peter and Paul, and expanding her empire, at the expense of all else, including her own salvation. The death of the prodigal son-Steven, makes Arina rethink her life and relinquishes her power, divides up the empire, to her remaining sons and moves out to seek a better life.

The ensuing collapse, deaths and hopelessness’ of her family to carry on the family empire, see Arina once again return to the head of the family, to save what is left.  The final scene of the play is Arina’s; played by Marie Mullen, Tour de force performance, and had me quaking in my boots.

Inspired by a 19th Century novel – The Golovlyov family by Mikhail Saltykov-Shehedrin it emphasises the futility of greed and religious insincerity. Using the dramatic effect of playwrights such as Anton Chekhov, the long speeches and the characters physicality, help develop the underlying tension, and unsaid thoughts and dreams of all on stage.

The play set over a 10 year period, includes a large ensemble cast who all play their parts well. This all helps to establish an epic Brechtian feel to the piece.

Steven-played by Darragh Kelly gives a wonderfully extravagant performance, as the long-lost son, who has been living the life of excess for many years. The other two brothers; Peter played by Declan Conlon, develops a sinister and pious character, whilst Paul played by Frank McCusker as the under-valued son both play their parts well. One other fine performance, was from Anna played by Janice Byrne, a joy to behold on stage.

The play has a ‘Groundhog day’ feel, with events continually repeating them selves. Tom Murphy’s writing is epic, which makes the show nearly 3 hours long.

Tom Piper’s set, with large planks of wood towering over the stage, creates a very masculine back-drop, where only the strongest survive. These multi-layered sets have been seen in other productions lately namely: Solemn Mass for a Full Moon and Jason Byrne’s The Comedy of Errors. This helps to use the space to great effect, allowing the family ghost to re-appear as if to prick the conscious of the remaining characters. The lightening too, by Ben Ormerod, works magically to transform the stage from one scene to another.

Overall the show is an enthusiastically played piece, leaving you breathless at the end. The epic nature of the writing and acting, builds to a magnificent climax, where only the reluctant tyrant could survive

Location:  The Abbey Theatre, Dublin
Dates : 27 May – 11 July
Time: 7:30
Tickets: From €15-€35
Bookings: +353 878 7222






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