THEATRE PETER CRAWLEY
GRIEF IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS Black Box Theatre, Galway. Previews Mar16-19OpensMar20-248pm ¤22.50-¤30;O’ReillyTheatre,Dublin 7.30pm (Sat mat 2pm) Mar 28–Apr 5 ¤26-¤40complicite.org Nothing fills the absence that announces grief, but in Max Porter’s absorbing and affecting book Grief is
the Thing with Feathers, it does invite a strange new presence. This is Crow who sweeps into a London flat shared by Dad, his two young sons, and, until a very recent tragedy, their mother. That Dad is a literary scholar, currently working on an appreciation of Ted Hughes, is not lost on him. And just as the poet transmuted his grief into his seminal collection Crow , so Dad seems to have summoned this indeterminate figure into the numb normality of their life: a taunter, protector, trickster, healer, a fine-feathered friend.
A startling, shuddering work, full of literary devices and hopping allusions, Porter’s book hardly screamed out for adaptation. But if any art form could effect an equivalent sense of shapeshifting between dispiriting reality and uneasy dream, it’s the theatre. And if any adapter could plumb the depths of loss without losing the instinct for play, it’s Enda Walsh. With his frequent collaborator Cillian Murphy, a champion of Porter’s book, Walsh’s work as adapter and director has taken wing with various producers, foremost among them the legendary Complicité and Wayward Productions in association with Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival. Sold out in Galway and Dublin, with further international dates expected, it is already something to crow about. THE UNMANAGEABLE SISTERS Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Until Apr 7 7.30pm(Satmat2pm)¤13-¤45 abbeytheatre.ie In 1968, the Quebecois playwright Michel Tremblay broke new ground with his play Les Belles-soeurs, putting 15 working-class Montreal women on the stage and having them speak naturally. That required the use of joual, a French dialect that the establishment already considered vulgar, before hearing it put to demotic and profane use here in a boisterous and cramped kitchen. A sensational and liberating performance, which has the vain winner of a million Gold Star stamps (that familiar customer loyalty scam) and all the women she knows to help stick them into booklets, it allowed for frank discussions of men, the church, quotidian joy and, with celebrated rapture, bingo. That may not sound entirely universal, and it’s telling that one of the most successful translations of the play has been into Scots, a sympathetic vernacular, for The Guid
Sisters. Now Deirdre Kinahan adapts the play for 1970s Ballymun in a new Abbey production directed by Graham McLaren and starring, well, pretty much everybody. To single out anyone defeats the purpose: even as the women help or betray one another, they’re united in an argot, the way their voices come together.
Something to crow about: Cillian Murphy in Grief is the Thing with Feathers.