MICHEL Tremblay’s famous 1971 play A toi, pour toujours, ta Mary-Lou, has been translated and relocated by Michael West for its UK premiere, on at the Ustinov Studio in Bath until Saturday 30th April.
Four members of a family talk. Two of them are dead.
This is a play deep-rooted in poverty and repressive Catholicism, whichever side of the Atlantic it sits. Originally set in Montreal, this new production takes the action to Dublin, where sisters Carmen and Mandy play out their childhood jealousies and imbalances. They couldn’t be more different, but each wants to blame the other for a situation that haunts their dreams.
Carmen (Caoilfhionn Dunne) has left home and works as a country and western singer in local bars and clubs. Mandy (Amy McAllister, seen recently in Call the Midwife), is dowdy but ostentatiously devout.
Their childhoods, within their parents’ bitter marriage, are played out with increasing vitriol and deepening explanation.
One of the brilliant aspects of this play is how it scoops up the audience sympathy and heaps it on one character, and then another.
Times have changed, but for anyone brought up in or close to the Catholic church 40 years ago, this is a scarifying experience, and one that not only calls for the most intense performances but for a readiness to revisit accepted ideas.
Paul Loughran has the unenviable task of playing Liam, the selfish, greedy, lazy and deeply confused father. Caitriona Ni Mhurchu’s Mary-Louise captures the pride, fear and determination, all overlaid with a helpless imposed duty.
If you see the publicity shots, don’t expect maudlin lyrics and plinky-plonk music. This is a scalpel to the soul.
Photographs by Simon Annand