Hot from a lukewarm Galway Arts Festival, Druid brought the new Enda Walsh play, Penelope, to the Everyman Palace Cork and a first class cast of four gave it their almighty best.
The 90 minute play, no interval, is based loosely on a Greek poem, an epic of Homer’s Odyssey. Why playwrights have to ransack Greek literature for inspiration is surely pretentious in search of some PhD acknowledgement. I didn’t expect Enda Walsh to fit into that semi-academic category but he’s joined the banquet of the damned and luvvies and whether he means it as some super satire or not doesn’t seem to matter.
Visually it features four men, supposed the remaining four suitors of Penelope, wife of super hero Odysseus who is too long away at the war. These suitors are possibly party animals enjoying the hospitality before their inevitable death. They live a sort of life dressed in bathrobes and Speedos in a drained out swimming pool. They are Fitz, Dunne, Quinn and Burns (possible links to discredited speculators and bankers). Penelope is a silent robotic model who comes occasionally to observe on television, the hopeless bombastic four.
Each of the desperate suitors get to make long-winded self serving speeches about love and the words, values and meanings of love and ends with one of them doing a cabaret quick change routine that is dazzling and impressive as well as being hilarious. Karl Shiels is wonderful in this routine.
By this time I felt it was a pastiche on Brother Brother as the suitors attempt to win against each other. Druid and Enda Walsh do Big Brother. It ended with a cliché of – you beginning….is now…blackout and sound of flames and inferno. I couldn’t help but think of the crazy and hippy phrase – Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of our lives.