Walsh and Murphy collaborated once before in the 2012 one-man show, Misterman, in which the hero Thomas deplores God’s absence from the modern day world. Enda Walsh writes indignant anger like no one else, and channels it through arrestingly poetic dialogue.
Cillian Murphy is a striking actor, who excels in playing characters alienated from society. His nuanced performances range from blockbusters such as Batman Begins and 28 Days Later to the cult indie films such as Breakfast on Pluto and big-budget BBC dramas like Peaky Blinders. But he has more than proved himself as a compelling stage actor, starring in classical Shakespeare and Chekhov and a plethora of Irish masterwork.
Ballyturk’s trio is completed by Mikel Murfi, a long-time collaborator with Enda Walsh, and Stephen Rea. Rea worked with legendary Irish playwright Samuel Beckett during his rise to stardom and you will likely recognise him from countless films including V for Vendetta, The End of the Affair and Underworld. He plays the everyman of stories, with great pathos and compassion.
Enthralling and elusive in equal measure, Ballyturk combines clown-like physical theatre with mediative poetic dialogue. Confined in a single room in 'no place' 'no time' (though very much Ireland and more or less modern) two nameless characters (Murphy and Murfi) live out their lives in a single space. Riotous routines of exaggerated movement, as they wash, dress and eat at super speed to a soundtrack of 80s pop songs, are punctuated by haunting half recollections and redundant words. Then, cementing the routine is the frenzied recreation of Ballyturk - an unreal town built from submerged memories and brought to life with breath-taking brilliance by Murfi and Murphy. Through mime and mimicry they flit between these fictional characters to embody a whole community. The musicality of Seamus Heaney mingles with moments of Beckett and the occasional essence of a silent movie -- but then Walsh breaks the spell: a third character, Stephen Rea, bursts in, is as knowing as he is unwilling to illuminate, and manages to at once shatter and support the dramatic world. If you need to know 'who, what and why' Ballyturk is likely to frustrate you. But the magic is that you don't need to understand the show to be utterly affected by it, and the uncertainty forces you to trust in emotional responses rather than reasoning: we certainly laughed and cried.
|What||Ballyturk, National Theatre|
|Where||National Theatre, South Bank, London, SE1 9PX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
11 Sep 14 – 11 Oct 14, 7:30pm; Matinees at 2:15pm
|Website||Click here to book via the National Theatre|