Cork Midsummer Festival, theatre review: Gallows humour aplenty in The Saviour 

Marie Mullen and Brian Gleeson shine in a world premiere streamed live from the Everyman 
Cork Midsummer Festival, theatre review: Gallows humour aplenty in The Saviour 

Marie Mullen as Máire in The Saviour. Picture: Jed Niezgoda

★★★★☆

The Saviour opens with Máire Sullivan (Marie Mullen) propped up in a brass bed looking like the cat who has got the cream. She is savouring a post-coital cigarette, a turn of events which is a huge surprise to this self-described “auld wan”. Sex, she declaims, has always been a means to an end, “foisted on me when I didn’t want it or offered for a bit of peace”.

She is, literally, talking to Jesus, gleefully telling him about Martin, the unseen man who serves her T-bone steaks for her birthday and makes her feel “like a film star”. All is well in her world, but not for long.

This streamed live performance from Landmark Productions is a world premiere as part of Cork Midsummer Festival. Written by Deirdre Kinahan and directed by Louise Lowe, it is an intense and unflinching experience. Mullen is a tour-de-force, giving a sustained monologue for 40 minutes, delivering some brilliant lines and gallows humour aplenty from Kinahan’s assured pen. 

The actor has an entire auditorium to herself, the lights of an empty Everyman Theatre twinkling behind the bed, but the pared-back set enhances the the sense of claustrophobia. 

There is no turning away from Máire and her maelstrom of thoughts, as she veers from girlish giddiness to downright despair. We learn about her time in a Magdalen laundry, given vivid life by the soundscape, and a throwaway line about childhood abuse gives us a glimpse into the perpetuating cycle of trauma. Underneath the gullible, melodramatic, self-pitying facade is a child who has suffered.

Marie Mullen  and Brian Gleeson in The Saviour. Picture: Jed Niezgoda
Marie Mullen  and Brian Gleeson in The Saviour. Picture: Jed Niezgoda

There is a welcome change in pace when Máire’s son Mel (Brian Gleeson) arrives to tell her some unwelcome home truths — about herself, and her new love Martin. 

Gleeson takes a few beats to find his rhythm but Kinahan’s gift for dialogue comes into its own in their exchanges, as the affectionate parrying turns sour and Máire unleashes a torrent of cruel abuse at her gay son. 

When Mel leaves, Máire is once again alone with Jesus as she faces the unimaginable prospect that she may have facilitated the same abuse she endured. 

Putting on a live-streamed theatrical performance, with its related technical uncertainties, is not for the faint-hearted, but all involved are to be commended for this powerful production.

Cork Midsummer Festival.
Cork Midsummer Festival.

  • The Saviour is available on demand until Jun 27. landmarkproductions.ie, www.corkmidsummer.com

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