The Children of Lir is an old Irish myth telling the tale of four children turned into swans by their stepmother, who is jealous of the love their father bears for them. The story is beautifully retold in this production by the Platypus Theatre company. The staging is sparse but evocative, as the productions makes full use of all the available media to draw the audience into the performance. Considerable use is made of music and sound effects to create the scene with traditional Irish music, both recorded and sung and even a little dancing. The costuming is simple but effective, symbolically placing each character in the drama. The portrayal of the children as swans, which could have appeared awkward, is gracefully handled with use of shadow puppetry to depict the children circling over the craggy Irish coastline. The transformation itself is a dramatic moment, heightened by the swirling chorus and the use of strobe lighting as the children fly away.
The production is distinguished by some excellent performances. Steve Walker, despite having relatively few lines as the king made deranged by the loss of his children, stands out. He avoids the temptation to overplay the emotion of the part, instead delivering a charismatic performance of a king unmanned by his care for his children. His performance is complemented by that of Joanna Sephton as his Queen consumed by her jealousy of the relationship between the King and his children. A character which could easily have been a one dimensional wicked stepmother is given breadth and depth by a beautiful performance of an imaginative script. The whole cast contribute to the atmosphere of the performance through the chanting choruses and the chatting locals providing a counterpoint to the emotions and artifice of the main players; the gossip of the lower classes and the bickering of the children flowing naturally and realistically. If it wasn’t for the note in the programme, you would never realise this was not a professional production.
And I swear that the positive review has nothing to do with the fact that we got free drinks during the interval :)