Druid Theatre, Playboy of the Western World

Review in Issue 21-3 | Autumn 2009

‘Wasn’t I a foolish fellow not to kill my father in the years gone by?’ There’s nothing like a spot of patricide for bringing a father and son together.

In the early part of the 21st century it’s hard to understand the rioting that greeted the premier of JM Synge’s Playboy of the Western World. Killing your kin is the stuff of soaps from ancient Greece to Eastenders. But in 1907, in God-fearing Ireland, the people took umbrage at a play that champions a man who kills his father and refers openly to women’s undergarments.

Except that gormless Christy Mahon – wonderfully played by Aaron Monaghan who convinces on his rise from sniveller to braggart – hasn’t killed his father, isn’t the man his adopted town believe him to be. Desperation has forced downtrodden Christy to fight his father, leaving him for dead, after he refuses to marry a widow twice his age at his father’s behest. We marvel at his growing confidence, brought on by the attention of the townsfolk and the love of two women – barmaid Pegeen, played by Clare Dunne, and Widow Quinn, Derbhle Crotty.

It’s not till Christy’s father, Old Mahon, shows up alive that questions are raised on the authenticity of Christy’s character. Pegeen brutally shuns him but later has reason to regret her decision.

Druid Ireland’s production is a marvellous ensemble piece, each cast member at home within the skin of their character. Garry Hynes’ production brings a whole community to life with sensitive detail and comic touches.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. May 2009

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-3
p. 30