They say you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but I suppose if you’re starting with the finest of silk, you’d find it hard to go wrong.
And so it is with Moat Club’s production of ‘The Steward of Christendom’, which debuted at the Moat Theatre last week. The play, by Sebastian Barry is one of the most important Irish plays of the past few decades.
It centres around the confused and unravelling mind of Thomas Dunne, a retired Chief Superintendent of the Dublin Metropolitan Police.
He was in the job during the events that lead up to independence and was the man who handed over Dublin Castle to Michael Collins.
The play traces that journey from the time when his loyalty to his job and the Crown gave him pleasure, to a point where it brings him confusion and pain.
Although based on an ancestor of the playwright, it can be taken as a metaphor of the chaotic birth of the nation.
Now in the 1930s Dunne is in a psychiatric hospital re-living that time. It is at times hilarious, tender, riotous and poignant, sometimes all at once. And in the same way that you would only give the finest silk to the finest craftsman, the Moat have given this script the Rolls Royce treatement.
Barbara Sheridan’s direction is deft and light. She understands that her role is to be a conduit between the script and the audience, and to then get out of the way.
Padraig Broe, in the lead role as Thomas Dunne is truly magnificent. At all times he held the audience in the palm of his hand. This is a very demanding role and it’s a coat he wears well.
It’s unfair to expect other actors to shine when sharing the stage with Mr. Broe, but they aquitted themselves well. Eugene Delaney and Ann Hurley were great as the orderlys, while his daughters, played by Sarah Gallagher, Eilish Rafferty and Lisa Moorehead were spot on as young women of their time.
Eoin Murphy was a good solid country new recruit to the DMP and John Lennon was excellent as an easy going, but bewildered son-in-law.
David O’Carrol played the singing ghost of Dunne’s son, killed in the great war. His clear voice provided one of the key moments of this excellent, moving and important production.