Belfast Telegraph

Pentecost review: A flawed, but still important play

By Terry Blain

The year is 1974, the place is Belfast, and the Ulster Workers' Council strike is unravelling in the background.

In the foreground, the lives of four characters are also unravelling at the same time.

Their embattled personal situations mirror the wrangled political upheavals and violent sectarianism happening just beyond the windows of the dilapidated parlour house they are temporarily sharing.

Alyson Cummins' design at the Lyric Theatre for the single set of Stewart Parker's 1987 play Pentecost is strongly evocative of a dismal period.

Its dinginess and muted lighting is a metaphor for the drabness and sense of failure haunting the play's protagonists. Of these, the Ruth of Roisin Gallagher makes a particularly vivid impression as the battered wife of a policeman husband, her nerves shredded, her poise and confidence shot to pieces.

Alongside her, Judith Roddy and Paul Mallon – as the estranged couple Marian and Lenny – make a slightly more studied impression.

Roddy in particular is at times inscrutable to a fault emotionally, and she isn't helped by Parker's occasionally verbose, preachy writing for the character.

Will Irvine brings more variety of cadence to his portrayal of the frustrated revenant Peter, injecting colour and individuality into every scene he appears in.

Director Jimmy Fay is at his finest in the play's clamorously tendentious finale, placing a tight, restraining hand upon the effusion of rhetoric which veers perilously close to melodrama.

Pentecost is undoubtedly an important play, if not the masterpiece it is sometimes claimed to be. But this sympathetic new production does it a generous measure of justice.

Three stars

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