sat 19/10/2019

Coolatully, Finborough Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Coolatully, Finborough Theatre

Coolatully, Finborough Theatre

Enjoyable drama about Ireland's renewed emigration

Kerr Logan as Kilian and Yolanda Kettle as Eilish in Fiona Doyle's 'Coolatully'

Ireland has had not just an economic meltdown in the past few years, but also a social one. The country that thought it had seen the back of emigration going back several generations has had to deal with its young people once again leaving in droves – albeit this time to staff schools, hospitals and television programmes with teachers, doctors and presenters, rather than men and women to build roads or clean floors, as so many of my parents' generation did.

This very painful ending of the Celtic Tiger period of modern Irish history is the starting point for Fiona Doyle's first full-length play, a period of economic madness summed up by young Irish comic Aisling Bea as a time when her country become obsessed with owning property and banks were “giving mortgages to 12-year-olds”.

We start at Coolatully's graveyard, where Kilian (Kerr Logan) stands - as he often does - beside a grave, describing everyday life in the small village, and how the local hurling team, of which he was once the star player, but for which he no longer plays, is doing. We learn only late in the play who he is talking to - his brother, who died in circumstances we are never explicitly told but which we can deduce was suicide. Rural Ireland has the world's fourth-highest suicide rate for young men.

Kilian is caught between wanting to join his girlfriend, Eilish (Yolanda Kettle) - who's excited to be soon off to sunny Australia, to nurse in Sydney (“Ten-minute drive to Bondi Beach”) - and running his mother's bar. Now, like the hurling team, it's denuded of its regulars as one by one the young men of the village go abroad to find work.

Kilian fills his days visiting an old family friend, Jimmy (Eric Richard), an ex-hurler who, like Eilish, encourages the young man to leave the village and even offers the means to allow him to go. But then, when best friend Paudie (Charlie de Bromhead) returns from a short spell in prison and suggests they emigrate together, he has to make a decision. Kilian does something that is completely out of character, and destroys all his relationships.

Coolatully's themes - love, loss, survivor guilt, escaping small lives in small places, how history repeats itself - could apply to almost anywhere in the world, and so there's surprisingly little sense that this is set in Ireland, still less that this village is devastated by potentially losing its sporting heart. The cast are all terrific but at 100 minutes ithe play is overlong and David Mercatali's languid production adds to the feeling that crisper writing and deeper probing of the issues might have made an enjoyable evening into a memorable one.

  • Coolatully is at Finborough Theatre, London SW10 until 22 November
Kilian's brother died in circumstances we are never explicitly told but which we can deduce was suicide


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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