Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Playboy of the Western World at The Old Vic

Being a Kevin Spacey fan, I have been looking to visit The Old Vic for quite awhile. Though I missed out on seeing him starring in Richard the Third, I jumped on the opportunity to see his theatre and Robert Sheehan (the hilarious Irishman in Misfits) perform Jolhn Millington Synge's The Playboy of the Western World.

image from The Old Vic website
Sheehan plays the titular character, a young man in County Mayo, Ireland, who is on the lam for killing his father in self defense. So taken with his elaborate tale, the oft-inebriated locals offer him refuge, while the local lasses offer him a bit more. A surprise visitor to the town later in the story puts the Playboy's life and love in peril and circumstances spiral comically out of control.

When the comedic play first opened in 1907, they bawdy references and seeming worship of ill-behavior led to riots on the streets of Dublin. Four years later, when it was performed in Philadelphia, the entire company was arrested for putting on an immoral show. Even in China five years ago, the mandarin version sparked a dispute over the ensembles short skirts.

With all the controversy this play has caused over three continents, last Saturday's biggest emotional outburst was a few bouts of laughter and polite chuckles. The show seemed to struggle to get off the ground at the beginning, as the audience had a hard time with the entirely native-Irish cast's diction, the early 20th century slang and the pacing of the speech. By the second act, the cast seemingly had better timing with the jokes and we all got used to the accents and there were plenty of laughs to the end. 

Sheehan was typecast as yet another lovable scamp, would say I'd like to see him do something else, but in truth, he plays that part pitch-perfect and I keep wanting to see where he takes the role.  The Widow Quin played by Niamh Cusack and Kevin Trainor's moral townsman, Shawn, definitely stole the show with hilarious portrayals of their characters. It's good to note that I saw the opening night performance and the rest of the cast could have caught up to the high standard that Cusack and Trainor set.

The Old Vic is worthy of a visit alone. A tiny but impressive Victorian building, tastefully decorated, even with a gratuitous photo of Kevin Spacey on the wall. It is very cosy though, and if you are over 5'5" I highly recommend springing for the Stalls, because your legs will NOT have enough room in the upper circle.

The Playboy of the Western World runs only until November 26th, so I'd get booking now, as Sheehan's starlight is sure to get the teen girls collecting playbills.

Have you seen it yet? What were your thoughts?


  1. I'm 6'0" so I would definitely have to spring to the Stalls. HAHAHA This looks great Danielle! When I was doing a little research about London, I was very impressed with the number of theaters and productions they had. The one you're featuring seems very intimate, which is nice (and VERY different from the states)! I find the actors there just AWESOME! I'm still learning, but I was a huge fan of the Downton Abbey tv series (PBS station here) and the King's Speech! I know they aren't plays, but the actors in them are truly superb. I can't wait to see a play there in a couple of years. Continue posting such topics. I find it very interesting and thought provoking. Great post!((HUG))

  2. Aw, you can't help but fall for him as that kind of character. I think he did great in Season of The Witch. And then..of course Love/Hate. But he's so fun to watch as Nathan on the Misfits.

    Great post!

  3. Kim- I think you would like it (except for the cramped seating)! It is not as intimate as say, an off-Broadway theatre, but even in the cheap seats it feels like you are enjoying some big stars and plays with just a lucky select group of people.

    ellie- He is perfect for the Nathan character! I haven't watched Love/Hate- might have to give it a try!