In David Ireland’s charming two-hander at the Finborough Theatre his usual concern about the British-Irish question of identity remains, but without the explosions of violence characterised in works like Cyprus Avenue.
At one time and place – the kitchen, at breakfast (set for four) – Matthew, an aspiring actor, runs through his audition for RADA later that morning.
His uncle Ray, approaching his fiftieth birthday with a sense of life having passed him by, joins him to talk family, talent, and secrets.
It’s the morning after the funeral of Matthew’s dad and Ray’s brother, but the mood is not depressing. As mum sleeps in upstairs, the two men bond over Shakespeare, the shadow of The Troubles, and truths which have been hidden.
Within Ceci Calf’s set – a lamp overhead, a table set with cooked breakfast, toast and marmalade, and a posh cafetiere – we watch a conversation unfold, with not a word out of place, or unconvincing.
As Matthew’s over the top Richard III with British cadence adds to the sense of the holding back of self, so does Ray’s eventual admission that his life has been something of a lie.
Max Elton directs this piece without going for anything showy, as the play really needs little beyond a place to let the story unfold. There is a lot to unpin here, as you would expect from Ireland’s previous work, but this is quiet, intimate, and a satisfying night out.
Both performances (Matthew Blaney as Matthew, Stephen Kennedy as Ray) are beautifully judged, and Kennedy’s portrait of a brash man dealing with crippling loneliness is poignant, while his confusion over names of celebrities is amusing. Blaney’s young man’s angst and anger feels realistic and understandable.
By the end of this fifty minute piece, we know everyone a bit better, even Dad and Mum, who made the decision to coat their son’s childhood in a white lie. We are hopeful for both men at the breakfast table to find what they want; we may even have tackled our own thoughts about what it is to be British or Irish in the northern part of the island of Ireland.
You can see Not Now at the Finborough Theatre until 26 November – book tickets here.
Image credit: Lidia Crisafulli