You have to admire the never-say-die spirit of theatre-folk to keep the faith and provide interesting work in times of recession and funding cutbacks. Kilkenny’s Watergate Theatre exemplifies that spirit and this January they went into association with up-and-coming local playwright, Willie Egan, to bring his exciting new play, The Diamond Spider, to the stage.
Egan has already had three plays staged at the Watergate by the Anner Players of Mullinahone but this was a step up into professional theatre. The Diamond Spider is a thriller with big themes of love, loss, greed ad betrayal and it handles them well, if at times it overstates the position.
This play is a tight four-hander, set on a split stage/passageway dividing them. It tells a modern story of a philandering bookie, Frank McCabe, described by his angry long-suffering spouse, Olivia as a – butterbox bookie – who married for money and now runs a trio of betting shops. He has a seemingly docile and loving mistress on the side in a beautiful single apartment. The mistress, Stephanie, after five years, wants more than a diamond necklace and exciting sex. McCabe is an amoral, if nor immoral, gambler who sees the odds as being in his favour or not at all.
Into the mix comes a strung out drug-dependent young man, Gary, on the run from shadowy offstage drug dealers to whom he owes thousands.
A modern thriller needs pace and suspense and in the darkness, before the curtain, you hear the four characters introduce themselves – by tonight at such a time I will have to make a decision. While this pre-figures the action it sets the work at a notch higher than the direction seems to aim at.
Act one, develops the story and the plot coincidences have sense but the pace is too slow and the audience work it out from the visual, onstage clues and the end of act one, seems overwritten and old-fashionedly stagy.
Act two ups the tension, but there were too many pre-pointed lines about Stephanie’s past and she is revealed as a poet who writes edgy free verse and the mother of Gary.
A tableaux freeze ending seems out of place and Gary is stranded in a less defined way.
The four actors bring considerable talents to the work and keep the tension up despite the often flagging pace.
Paula Drohan as Stephanie is not best served by a set of coincidences in the plotting but she made the role believable. Jake Moylan as Gary was under-directed but he brought a fine edgy menace to the story. Marina Boyd shone as the ice diamond wife bent on revenge and retribution.
Brendan Corcoran was powerful as the un-redeeming scheming gambler Frank McCabe and he carried the play and plot with style and finesse. It is not easy to play the bastard and not slip into parody, but he managed it with studied perfection and good stage-craft.
The Watergate have a fine forward programme with Beckett’s Endgame on Tuesday February 24 and Xerxes from Opera Theatre on Thursday, 26 February. This is a Handel opera sung in English.