Blackwater Babble @ Cork Midsummer Festival

Review by Liam Heylin, Evening Echo 20/06/2018 

The lighting is dimmed and we’re packed into a wonderful old Cork pub redolent of a million sing-songs, love stories, friendships and inevitably the odd row.

The painted timbers on the walls look like they got their tell-tale colour from a time before the smoking ban, a time when Ronan FitzGibbon’s overlapping stories are set.

The audience is crammed into  the pub to see two men possibly trying to reconstruct their past or maybe to demolish it  before it rises up to finish them off for once and for all. At first they are like two brothers who would prefer to tear strips off each other into the dying night as an alternative to being alone. But gradually it becomes clear that they are the younger and older version of the one man wrestling with his past.

Director Joe Meagher takes the  word trance from FitzGibbon’s script and makes it the calling for his production of the play. Even though the play happens over 70 minutes early on a Summer’s evening there is that rich and moody atmosphere of very  late night moments during a night’s  drinking.

This Brokencrow Theatre Company production delves into communal moments where any number of things could take hold – violence, rage, cowardice, loneliness, lust, love, cruelty or that transcendent moment where a sing-song hits full flight. While the emotional truths are always clear as a bell the more literal narrative moments are sometimes hard to be sure of in the welter of exchanges between the younger and older self.

Fitzgibbon and Meagher are blessed to have two fine Cork actors, namely John McCarthy and Gary Murphy, to sail this show into the night. McCarthy is the one trying to ignite the past, literally and figuratively, and his performance has a zest but also a sombre quality that prefigures the sadness ahead. Murphy is the embodiment of an aching heart who has almost given up on the possibility of some kind of flight. Even when just listening to McCarthy, Murphy manages to look like a deeply etched portrait hanging on the wall of the pub.