It is remarkable that Marble by Marina Carr is her seventh premiere at the Abbey Theatre and this complex work with Carr using typical Greek mythology influences to look at two apparently rich and successful couples where the husbands work in corporate boardrooms while their wives have a humdrum bored existence in posh suburbia, where one wife drinks too much wine and buys new sofas while the other dreams of what might have been or what Carr describes as – dying of an empty heart.
Art is married to wine drinker Anne, and Ben is wed to Catherine and they both have young families. Art tells Ben over brandy and cigars that he has a recurring dream of Ben’s wife in bed in a room of marble and her blonde hair has a suffused unreal intensity. Ben goes home and Catherine is lounging on a sofa with a towel covering her hair. The worm of suspicion flexes and he has to remove the towel to reveal his wife’s natural dark hair.
Then Catherine tells Ben, she dreams of Art in a similar marble room and you can feel the audience react and think that this is Art and Catherine’s way of telling their partners of their secret love affair. But that’s not what this deeply unhappy play is about.
People might think that Catherine will never leave her children but those familiar with Carr’s work will know that in her last Abbey play, Woman And Scarecrow, Woman abandoned her eight children for mystery and excitement. Even as Act Two opens with catherine’s hair now blonde as she confronts Art, you know the speculation is robbed by Carr’s style and too much clever talk.
What this play needed was a mad passionate love scene in a shower but it tailed itself to an inconclusive end of sorts that was overshadowed by an amazing visual effect with the scenery that had the impact of 2001 Space Odyssey.
Carr writes wonderful parts for women and Aisling O’Sullivan was manic with insanity as Catherine and Derbhle Crotty was wine smouldering as Anne.
Marina Carr has a great scary children’s play The Giant Blue Hand running at the Ark in Temple Bar at the same time and in the closing scene of that play, the narrator tells of the story of marmar but that’s a tale for another time. Marmar is the Irish word for Marble.