Brewery Lane Theatre, Carrick-on-Suir, with their exceptional production of Hugh Leonard’s DA, was as good and better than many professional play productions, I have seen in the last five years. Da, is not an easy or comfortable play and its time-shifts and stage technique of having a dead father and a living son’s youthful self onstage conducting those dialogues that never happened, yet deep in our own hearts we know what happened in thousands of families.
Peg Power’s excellent direction never falters in a fine John Denby designed and lit set. Eileen Butler and Mary O’Hanlon’s costumes are another feature of fine detail and evocation of the sixties.
Tom Nealon as the dead Da gives an amazing performance of power, nostalgia, irritation and humour, with many moments when tears welled up in my eyes. This was the complete Da – a performance that should grace a professional stage.
As the play opens and the Da buried, his son Charlie comes back from London to complete the funeral and tidy up the drawers of memories – memories he is running away from. Birth certs, death certs, rent books, photographs, evoke a mixed childhood of an adopted boy who knew deep love but social rejection as a bastard rather than an illegitimate child. David Grant, as Charlie, was so impressive and his performance was full of love, rage, frustration, confusion as memories of his foster father stepped out of his head and become real as Da made the tea and post, present and imagined, became the story on the stage.
Eamonn O’Neill, as the impressionable, Young Charlie, brought great understanding to the part and you know you were watching a future actor in the making. Like the character he embodied, O’Neill is destined for greatness in theatre, if that is what he wants.
Maria Clancy, as Mother, was equally excellent as a perfect study of the gruff matriarch of hard work and proper value. In her, I saw many aspects of my own dear and now gone mother and there was pain and joy in my appreciation.
Jim English was another impressive actor with his fine portrayal of the austere snob, Drumm. Julie Anne Denby was an accurate Yellow Peril and Roseanne Glasgott was Mrs. Prynne. Colm Power was an unctuous Oliver.
At the end of the play, as Charlie shuts the door on the past and memories, the Da comes with him and such is the impact of this play and this production that as I write this review, Da is with me as Tom Nealon and so is my late father and mother and my own past self. Such is the impact that I also have Davy Condon as a WDS Da here and that was about thirty years ago in the Municipal Theatre.