Paul Meade's new play asks where to place our faith after Irish institutions were discredited in the economic bust.
I saw Faith by Paul Meade last week. While watching, it occurred to me how in the past year new plays about Recession Ireland and the demoralising realities of the economic crash have become more frequent. Carmel Winters' Best Man, though more interested in sensationalist plotting, at least brought recent shifts in materiality and sexuality into play, while Colin Murphy's excellent docudrama Guaranteed! showed how the collapse of a tiny bank brought an entire financial system to the brink of destruction.
Other writers saw how economic shifts are systematically linked to shifts in mental health. Stefanie Preissner's Solpadeine is my Boyfriend was already a shinning pillar of this, a verse about the dissolution of a nation through emigration. Elizabeth Moynihan's dimmed Marvel tried to shed some light on the mental decline of the scathed banker figure, while a monologue by Paul Kennedy for Smashing Times' Witness brought us into a marriage strained by a bad investment and the arrival of the bailiffs. Ultimately, David Fennelly's Fishes, currently running at Bewley's Cafe Theatre, feels the most exact in tracing the alienation felt in the country.
Into this category comes Meade's play about a laid off salesman and depressive played by Don Wycherley who's struggling to keep up the social obligations of he and his wife at the golf club.
"I'm afraid that I'm not the man you fell in love with", releases Wycherley sweetly from an otherwise bumbling text. His wife is written with such a singular dimension that Jennifer O'Dea's talents seem wasted. Even Wycherley with his expert range for comic and tragic seems awkward at times in his delivery.
It takes the charm of Michael Glenn Murphy to smooth out these ambiguities in the writing, playing a somewhat magician who secures Wycherley's protagonist a new job, as well as some faith in himself. Ideologically opposed is O'Dea's spouse, confined to the modern interiors of Maree Kearn's apartment set, who could represent the resisting suspicions of a Celtic Tiger where the sole answer to mental illness is prescribed medication.
In this opposition Meade seems to suggest that faith placed in institutions that have since been discredited must now resound in the self. It would be an important message if the text wasn't chockfull of quips and throwaway punchlines. For example, a description of the scientific Event Horizon is begun with: "There are scientists out there (who might or might not look like Beaker out of the Muppets)". As a result, it's often hard to take Faith seriously, and what forms is an arc more ideological than emotional with a conclusion that's more stunt than shock.
What did everybody else think?