I was privileged to see the late Anna Manahan in sisters at the Cork Everyman Palace. A play specially written for her by Declan Hassett and it was the aura and reputation of Anna that dazzled me and I was caught up in the beauty and detail of the performance. In the process I undervalued the fine writing and revealing detail in Hassett’s work.
Now in a new production at the same venue with another fine actress Gerry McLoughlin in the dual role of Sisters, Martha and Mary under the expansive direction of Michael Twomey, it is as if a whole new play emerges and the skill in the construction and Hassett’s strengths are more in evidence. That is the continuing, attraction and magic of theatre, that other actors other performers bring out differing aspects of fine work.
McLoughlin creates two excellent studies and her telling of the sad lives of two siblings has such variation in style, skill and delivery. Martha, whom we meet first, is an innocent with self-pity and a bitterness towards her dead mother and teacher sister Mary. McLoughlin brings a lot of knowing humour to her story of her father’s love for her rather than her sister and we learn a lot about the absent sibling.
In Act II with a clever scene change by Jim Queally we meet Mary and realise nothing is as we were led to believe. McLoughlin shrines here as she gradually reveals a much different story and at time a sadder tale this side of spite and madness.
Within this process, this fine ability of Declan Hassett is confirmed. It is good to see that he is working on two new plays – Gentleman Jack (about the early days of Jack Lynch) and Secrets.