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Breakfast at Dalkey
Published on Friday, 24 May 2013

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4 stars

Redroaster Coffee House (venue website)
18-19, 21-24 May, 8:15pm-10:00pm
Reviewed by Ben Aitken

 World Premiere.
 Suitable for age 16+ only.

James is a father of twelve, a widower, and a senior manager at the Guinness brewery in Dublin, circa 1930. Son Tom is working at a pawnshop and is in the habit of pinching his father’s black pudding. Son Jimmy has jumped ship (so to speak) and is living precariously in New York as an émigré, and with James’ wife six-feet-under, local chancer Nellie is all too ready to take on the family burden of inheriting ten properties. There’s a wake, a will, a car-crash, and skirmishes are two-a-penny. Breakfast at Dalkey is high-cholesterol stuff.

Indeed, I can only gawp at the production’s willingness to ignore the apparent limitations of space and time and budget, and present a narrative that skips breezily between continents and across years – the simple staging and establishing projections doing much to allow such dynamism. Such an achievement ought to be a lesson for dramatists (like myself) who tend to lock their productions into a single room, lest things get too complicated or unconvincing. Writer Eddie Alford deserves a pint of the black stuff for giving short shrift to such wimpish inclinations.

As bullying patriarch James, Gearoid Sheehan doesn’t labour over his lines, putting them out with a charming impatience – his timing and intonation evidence of a sure theatrical instinct.  As both stowaway Jimmy and solicitor Frank, Jack Kristiansen has a natural menace about him, as if he’s perpetually toying with the idea of poking you in the eye.  Lawrence Russell plays Tom with enjoyable restraint, years of feeling under-appreciated somehow caught in the fastidious way he polishes his boots. And Ty Galvin on the box-office put in a prize-winning shift – the man was kindness itself.

Such things (like Ty on the box-office) matter, in their own way; as does the writer’s warm addresses to the audience pre- and post-performance. The details were in keeping with the warmth and well-meaning of the play more broadly. Sure, if the book were thrown at Breakfast at Dalkey, it would certainly be vulnerable to several counts of over-writing and under-editing. But the play is the better for its liabilities. From its script to its cast to its box-office staff, the production seems to have a texture; a texture characterized by a passionate and musical brand of storytelling.

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