It’s the first big opening of the year — the Lyric Theatre’s highly anticipated premiere of Owen McCafferty’s new play, The Absence of Women.
As in his earlier work, Shoot the Crow, McCafferty’s characters are working class heroes. Iggy and Gerry are labourers from Belfast, who have lived out much of their lives in a London hostel.
Now in their twilight years, their thoughts shift from the present to the often rose-tinted times of the past. And to the absence of women in their lives. Ian McElhinney and Karl Johnson head the cast, which is directed by Rachel O’Riordan. Belfast humour combines with great poignancy for this story of two ordinary, lonely men, the path they travelled and the turnings they took. As ever, McCafferty makes a hero of the common man, and reminds us all that, as Larkin said, what will survive of us is love.
Ian McElhinney, who plays Iggy, is no stranger to the Lyric stage as he was last seen in Brian Friel’s The Home Place. As well as his thriving television career, he has spent more time behind the scenes as a director (he won a Tony nomination on Broadway for directing Stones in His Pockets) but it is for his theatre roles that we love him most.
Karl Johnson, who comes hot from the BBC drama Lark Rise to Candleford, in which he played Twister Turrell, joins him. Johnson, too, has an impressive acting career on stage and screen. He recently appeared at the National in Conor McPherson’s drama, The Seafarer.
Meanwhile, young actor Conor McNeill is making a bit of a name for himself these days, having popped up in many locally shot films such as Five Minutes of Heaven, and Cherrybomb. He’s becoming a familiar figure on the stage here, too, featuring in McCafferty’s Scenes from the Big Picture and Antigone, both performed at the Waterfront. Fellow actor Alice O Connell is probably best known for her work on television series City of Vice and The Verdict.
The Absence of Women opens for previews on Monday at the Elmwood Hall in Belfast, and runs through until February 27.
Just room for a quick round -up of what’s on around the rest of the country. There’s still a chance to see Peter Corry in the title role of Sweeney Todd in our very newest venue, the Theatre at the Mill in Newtownabbey.
In Lisburn, Owen Horsley directs a production of Romeo and Juliet at the Island Arts Centre this evening, while tomorrow, the same venue is hosting a performance of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey.
And members of the Tyrone Guthrie Society have been rehearsing hard for their latest production — David Grant directs the cast in Brian Friel’s Translations, which runs at the Brian Friel Theatre in Belfast until tomorrow night. And if you have younger members of the family who like a bit of drama, you could take them to see Roald Dahl’s The Witches, which runs at the Waterfront Studio until tomorrow night.
That should keep them off the chocolate for a while