The Playboy of the Western World, Kingsgate Theatre - Review

Anyone who is familiar with Irish Arts will need no introduction to JM Synge's play The Playboy of the Western World. Set in County Mayo at the turn of the 20th century, it tells the story of Pegeen Mike (Maria Quinn) a young lady who knows her own mind and works in her father's tavern. On the surface the only way out of her situation is to accept the advances of her wealthy would-be suitor Sean Keogh (Paul Connaughton), but the arrival of a stranger in town, Christy Mahon (Dylan Kennedy) seems to be the answer to her prayers – and for all the womenfolk in town too... Christy's tale of killing his own father excites the community and stirs all manner of emotions, polarising the women from the men.

Under the direction of Gavin McAlinden the play's humour shines, while simultaneously depicting the everyday preoccupations of rural communities. Quinn delivers an excellent performance as Pegeen – a young woman with the wherewithal to make something of herself in the wider world, but with no one in the village to see how truly special she is. We see in her would-be suitor Sean Keogh (Paul Connaughton) someone in thrall of the clergy's influence and someone who is always worried about reputation or the 'destination' of his immortal soul.

Widow Quinn (Clare Langford) the other 'serious' rival to Pegeen for Christy's affections is suitably, calm, collected and manipulative – the antithesis of Pegeen. Much of the 'tension' in the play stems from the battle of wills between these women.

As for the other girls in the village, Honor Blake (Lauren McGarvey), Susan Brady (Blaithin McCormick) and Sara Tansey (Catriona McFeely), while they're not on stage as much as Langford and Quinn, they make an indelible impression as the vivacious young villagers who are infatuated with the idea of an infamous fugitive on their very doorsteps.

The fathers Michael James (Morgan Crowley) and Old Mahon (Bernard O'Sullivan) also put in notable performances, whose opinions on Christy are ambivalent to say the least.

As for Dylan Kennedy in the eponymous role of 'the Playboy', his believable performance really sells the progression of his character arc from a guilt-ridden, fearful young man to the intrepid visitor who captures the imagination of the people of Mayo, who project their hopes and fears upon him.

The Playboy of the Western World is a pleasure to watch from beginning to end and the perfect way to begin the London Irish Rep season.

© Michael Davis 2016

The Playboy of the Western World runs at Kingsgate Theatre (at Kingsgate Community Centre, Kilburn)  until 10th April 2016.


Author's review: