Pros: Small theatres like the Finborough give you an excellent chance to really experience the performances up close.
Cons: The play didn’t flow smoothly, the actors spoke across one another frequently and sometimes the words were lost in their accents.
We all have one. A friend who, regardless of the pain or suffering caused to them by others, remains calm, collected and ultimately forgiving. Whether this is because of their steadfast religious faith or not, it is both infuriating and wonderful to see in someone. And that is how I felt about John Ferguson. The elderly and frail patriarch of a small rural family is dedicated to his Protestant god regardless of the trials and tribulations the deity will or may send his way. Despite his daughter agreeing to marry someone she doesn’t love to save the family farm and then being sexually assaulted, Ferguson rejects to stoop as low as those that harm him and his. Ciaran McIntyre portrays the ailing man delicately and you do feel somewhat sympathetic for him. However it is difficult to remain so when he refuses to take revenge on his daughter’s attacker.
The stage was laid out in traverse with the audience members seated opposite one another across the set. Thinking back, I think those sitting on the other side drew the short straw. It was our side that was frequently used as a window to be looked out of, meaning we got up close and personal with the performers. We were able to witness some wonderful facial expressions from the dedicated team which made up for the slightly confused lines.
As the lights rose on the stage, Veronica Quilligan stared off into the middle distance with a striking look of pain and worry etched onto her features. Unfortunately for all the potential in that look, I found the performances jilting. I don’t actually blame any one of the actors, despite the dropping of a few sentences and overlapping of lines. I think the script, despite an interesting plot and a number of interesting characters (the most intriguing being ‘Clutie’ John played by David Walshe – a whistle playing simpleton who perhaps is more clever than he lets on), doesn’t work with a modern day audience. I didn’t feel there was anything said that hasn’t been said a number of times in a number of ways. Ultimately therefore some excellent physical performances were maimed by the script, which I found showed its age more than many plays much older than itself. And a lack of confidence in the lines by the actors meant the realism was lost in parts.
Ultimately, Ferguson returned to his Bible but left the audience with the message that while religion might make you a virtuous and loved individual, there is little there to assist you in facing the challenges man faces every day. To me this is of little significance in the 21st century, however perhaps when it was first performed in 1915 its message struck a chord.
Writer: St John Ervine
Director: Emma Faulkner
Producer: Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre with Light Box
Box Office: 0844 847 1652
Booking Link: http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/venue/finborough-theatre-tickets/FINBOROERD/905
Booking Until: 14th June 2014