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7 July 2005 Edition

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Emigration's human cost

Theatre Review

Cold Comfort

Directed by Owen McCafferty

Starring Patrick O'Kane

This one-man play is raw visceral stuff. I was lucky enough to watch the world premiere at the Derry Playhouse recently.

Patrick O'Kane plays out of his skin as Kevin Toner, who returns home after a long exile in Kilburn for a conversation with his dead father. What follows is a poignant and humane revelation of a man facing his demons, for perhaps the first time in his life. The play is a punchy and poetic discourse on alcoholism and its legacy for family and individual as it is passed from generation to generation.

The set, designed by David Craig, augments the script marvellously. Kevin, in a cheap suit that looks like it's been slept in, and a black tie, is obviously at a family funeral, but who is being buried?

Slugging from a half bottle of brandy, Kevin Toner finally uncorks decades of unsaid, unresolved emotions. It touches the reality of so many of the Irish Diaspora of the 20th Century and blows away the gobshitery of the likes of Mary Robinson, with her candle in the window in the Áras. After hearing Kevin Toner, you have a fair idea about where you'd like to put that lighted candle.

It's a story of loss, alcoholism, shattered dreams and the blackest of Belfast street humour, acted out in Kilburn's building sites and paddy pubs.

In the days of Tiger Ireland, it suits the "closer to Boston" brigade in the government to write off the Kilburn experience as normal economic activity. McCafferty's character, in his anguish, tells of the human cost of that type of economic clearance.

We would do well to remember that we have Kevin Toners among us now called Stanislav, surviving on brown sauce sandwiches and feeling the wrench of home.

If you get a chance to see this, cancel anything that's in the way and get along to it.

It's necessarily strong stuff.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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