The Night Alive | Review
The Lyric Theatre • Show runs 6 – 31 October ’15
by Tom Loach
Conor McPherson’s black comedy, The Night Alive, sees no stranger to the stage, Adrian Dunbar, lead the charge as Dublin Del Boy, Tommy as he careers between one odd job to another with his nervous partner in crime, Doc and plays knight in shining armour to Katey Stanley’s physically abused Aimee all under Tommy’s uncle Maurice’s (Frank Grime) roof. Whilst the play which has not only garnered positive reviews and won a McPherson, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play 2013-2014, it’s not without a few flaws.
The piece is composed of beautifully devised dialogues and well placed comic moments, allowing Dunbar’s middle aged Dublin wide boy to glide through his messy digs with a larger than life presence but at times it tries to tread upon too many themes. At its best, it captures the feeling of a modern Irish man’s loneliness and has some truly charming moments of a surrogate father/son relationship between Tommy and Doc. There is some inconsistent character writing, particularly with Aimee’s psychotic ex-boyfriend, played by Ian Lloyd-Anderson who seemingly changes from sadistic suit wearing gangster figure to a troubled character we almost want to empathize with, before revealing his true nature as a violent maniac possessed by the demons of withdrawal.
The way undertones of prostitution, domestic violence and hard drug use are mixed in a gumbo pot with cosmic philosophy and crude jokes about root vegetables at times seems mishandled. These themes also occasionally disrupt the flow of the script and there are a few sub-plots which ultimately seem unresolved, glanced over in a rather rushed fashion; for instance, Tommy’s strained relationship with off stage estranged wife and children never really sees a well-rounded redemptive arc, shunted to the side in favour of the slightly awkward onstage romance between Tommy and Aimee. Given the strength of the acting, these writing flaws can be overlooked.
Whilst all of the acting was flawless, it was Laurence Kinlan’s performance as Doc which should be truly commended. Known for playing Elmo in the popular RTE gang drama Love/Hate, Kinlan shows great finesse as a physical comedy actor and for being able to navigate verbally through tongue twisting existential soliloquys. One could argue that Kinlan’s abilities are almost worth the ticket price alone.