Theatre review: Our Few and Evil Days at Abbey Theatre

Mark O’Rowe’s new play depends on a series of narrative reversals that can’t be divulged without ruining the twist.

And that twist is a seductive, subdued tension spiked deliciously with a dramatic left-turn. The play centres on a middle-class Dublin family (dad Ciarán Hinds, mum Sinead Cusack and adult daughter Charlie Murphy) haunted by a deep hurt. But this hauntedness morphs into something stranger, testifying to the ways in which grief can transform everyday life.

From the opening moments, when a drowsy Hinds puts a sofa-bed back together with ritualistic attention, the play invests everything with the evocative. The ability to evoke or to invoke is the power of the ghost story, but also the power of theatre itself. Here, it is the key to understanding the play’s narrative, but O’Rowe’s emphasis on the evocative also hampers the play somewhat, with the narrative’s evasive subtlety a little too pronounced.

When this spirit of suggestiveness pays off, it does so handsomely, as it did in the the early stages, when Hinds and Cusack exchanged awkward banter with their daughter’s boyfriend (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor). These scenes are also very funny, a masterclass in rhythmic dialogue and wry minimalism. Yet, as every new plot-point becomes more cryptic than the last, it slowly stifles our emotional investment. In the second act, as the stakes are raised and the material becomes more graphic and shocking, you’re still sifting through vague allusions, even while the characters are going through an emotional upheaval that should command all your attention.

Nevertheless, there remains an affecting, experimental edge to Our few and Evil Days that makes the weirdness supremely enjoyable. As such, despite its frustrations, the play is always bold and intriguing, with O’Rowe coaxing two phenomenal performances from Hinds and Cusack.

4/5

Padraic Killeen


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