Where's Peen been?
The Old Vic, London
Was Peen keen?
The Irish man asks why he is being tortured; luckily, audience members know how to bite their tongue.
Unfortunately not; in fact, we’ve heard much worse things in the 100 years since this play was written – which is where it should have stayed. Christy becomes a town hero because of the boldness in the way he tells his story: he’s on the run after killing his father. Female locals start to fall for him but fail to seduce; Pegeen is his only love interest. Later, his father appears having traced his footsteps: a spade to the head obviously left him wounded, not dead. Alas, Christy is found to be a liar and so Pegeen “lost my only Playboy of the Western World”: big deal.
Sheehan is suitably cast, and does a reasonably good job. The play makes satirical commentary on celebrity and gossip within a small community; admittedly, it’s most likely the norm for certain kinds of people (definitely the kinds filling at least half of the auditorium each night – you’ll find them panting outside the stage door afterwards) to be reading and talking about celebrity on a daily basis. This much is obvious – but the production remains outdated and irrelevant by failing to hit home with the very ideas that Synge once wrote so poetically about. It’s too unclear, and kind of like a poorly staged Shakespeare but with very strong Irish dialect: irritating, and difficult to understand.
The performance becomes more tiresome as the storyline develops; at the beginning, there is hope. But by the end, the majority of the audience is left baffled by the explosive response as teenage girls scream and cheer for TV heart-throb, Sheehan, highlighting how numb most of a modern audience is to the issues being discussed in the play. It doesn’t quite hold the same relevance it did in 1907, and certainly won’t be causing riots any time soon.
Should the play be re-written and brought up to date, and receive a tad more direction so the production can offer us a little more than nothing at all, we wouldn’t be watching the play text read out loud with a (brilliant) rotating set (Scott Pask) that spins every so often. At the moment, it’s out of date and more so out of context. It actually could be something quite special; but for now, we remain disappointed.