The structure of Brian Friel’s first drama in this play of two parts is such that the audience is alerted to a tragedy that is clinically reported by commentators, like a Greek chorus. Ostensibly, Winners is about a teenage couple who have to get married as the girl, Mag, is pregnant.
The loved-up, but often bickering pair, are studying for their exams. Joe takes life more seriously than his scatty girlfriend. As it turns out, they are dealt a cruel hand. However, the nature of their demise is not revealed. They are ‘winners’ in that they never get to live out a mundane domestic life with all the tensions that are already evident in their tempestuous relationship.
Directed by the Everyman’s Julie Kelleher, ‘Winners’, a tad too long, is played in a naturalistic style with fine performances by Timmy Creed and Mary-Lou McCarthy. The latter is a bundle of energy who, ironically, says to her lover that she “can’t wait for the future.”
A dismal future awaits Hanna (Fionula Lenihan) and Ciaran Bermingham (Andy) in Losers. This older couple are trying to conduct a relationship but it’s a source of disapproval for Hanna’s bed-bound interfering mother and a nosey neighbour. The couple’s courtship is hilariously portrayed with Andy loudly reciting ‘Elegy in a Country Churchyard’, as a cover for enthusiastic sexual fumbling. The church looms large in this piece with the recitation of the rosary every night in Hanna’s mother’s bedroom.
Losers is played almost as a farce. It’s very funny with Bermingham, in particular, milking its comedic potential. However, this is ultimately a sad play. Andy, at one point, talks of what he should have done in a situation that arose. Again, Friel is playing with time, adding poignancy to the sorry state in which Andy and Hanna eventually find themselves in. They are ultimately ‘losers’, stuck in a loveless marriage.
John O’Brien is on stage throughout, playing his specially-composed score for the play on piano. This adds layers to the theatrical experience although at times, the commentators compete with the music to be heard.