NNT: Molly Sweeney
Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster.
The audience face moral messages this week at New Theatre, along with African bee monologues and an alcoholic eye surgeon in ‘Molly Sweeney’, directed by Jake Leonard.
Blind since infancy, Molly Sweeney (Chloe Bickford) spends the entire play balancing light and blindness. A miracle surgery not only enables her to see but also provides sight for her nomadic husband Frank (Dan O’Connor) and her whisky enthusiast ophthalmologist Mr. Rice (Sam Peake).
Set in Ireland, the small stage is split, like the narrative, into three parts to create an interwoven production. Whilst the actors never address each other, Leonard’s production is strangely intimate.
Sam Peake’s Mr. Rice conveys the frustration of a fallen eye surgeon and, in questioning the merits of her restored eyesight, Chloe Bickford’s moving Molly portrays the restrictions of change, regardless of its social merits.
It is here, in Molly’s transformation from blind to full sight, that Chloe’s performance truly shines. She brilliantly combines vulnerability and excitement, as the audiences join her on her sensory adventure. It is this adventure that makes the audience question whether change is necessary for happiness.
As Frank, Dan O’Conner gives a powerful portrayal of an over-zealous husband whose obsession with Iranian goats is just as intense as his need to cure his wife. While his character could be seen as dislikable as he views Molly as one of his projects, O’Connor provides comic relief from an emotionally driven play.
The lighting team (Will Pimblett) cleverly uses spotlights to represent the static nature of the characters who are constantly between sight and darkness.
With more issues than the Jeremy Kyle show and a predictable pace, the script may not be for all theatre enthusiasts. However, while we can see what is coming a mile off, we cannot forget that, although the characters are in the dark, Friel wanted the audiences fully enlightened, making the play’s message even more demanding.