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Review of Portia Coughlan at the Old Red Lion Theatre

Portia CoughlanThis is a big play. A story that covers generations of lies and betrayals – and an enormous cast of eleven at the Old Red Lion Theatre.

The story starts simple – Portia (Susan Stanley) is turning thirty and she’s struggling – the more she unravels the more layers are revealed and the more complicated the story becomes. There’s Raphael, her safe but dull husband (Ben Mulhern), her faithful lover Damus (Alan Devally) and her potential new lover Fintan (Conan Sweeny) – and none of these men are able to understand her, or offer her what she needs. This is a woman spinning out of control – desperately trying to find her footing, but ceaselessly teetering between two opposing worlds. Broken into three acts the play is consistently compelling and the language and performances are so rich that even though 90 minutes straight through sounds long – it genuinely sweeps you along and then spits you right back out at the end.

And it sounds dark, and it is dark, the language is visceral often hate-fuelled and desperate – but it’s also dangerously funny, colourful, often poetic and performed with a heightened energy that means it’s the opposite of dreary. Trust me, I’m not one for dark plays where secrets from the past are unveiled – but Portia Coughlan gets a free pass for being so damn full of volition. There’s an energy to the writing, performances and direction that means you can’t look away. The cast are outstanding, Susan Stanley captures Portia’s frailty, frustration and fury beautifully and Veronica Quilligan (Maggie May) and James Holmes (Senchil) make a lovely complicated double act. But really everyone is fantastic, and in spite of the title suggesting it’s the story of one woman, this production feels like an ensemble piece where everyone is implicated. It’s the story of a community, of what a small town full of ghosts can do a person who is unable to escape.

The set is one of the best I’ve seen at The Old Red Lion – and the cast use it expertly. There’s never any confusion about where we are, and the director keeps the scene changes, and use of lights and music, clean and simple. Gothic, contemporary, painful and genuinely really darkly funny. This is a play that is ready for a larger stage and larger audience – but this is the space to see it  – Bronagh Lagan’s production fills every inch of the room, it’s a truly full on piece of theatre – in the best possible way.

4 stars

Review by Roz Wyllie

Aria Entertainment presents Portia Coughlan
Directed by Bronagh Lagan
A ferocious, haunting and beautiful Irish tale by Marina Carr writer of By The Bog of Cats, The Mai and Ullaloo.
Portia Coughlan lives in a monstrous Limbo, haunted by a yearning for her spectral twin brother lying at the bottom of the Belmont River, unable to find any love for her wealthy husband and children, seeking solace in soulless affairs, deeply afraid of what she might do…
‘Portia coughlan packs a hell of a punch. It hurts to look at it. But it has to be seen.’ Irish Independent

Portia Coughlan – Susan Stanley
Raphael Coughlan – Ben Mulhern
Damus Halion – Alan Devally
Fintan Goolan – Conan Sweeny
Stacia Diyle – Karen Cogan
Blaize Scully – Anne Kent
Maggie May Doorley – Veronica Quilligan
Senchil Doorley – James Holmes
Marianne Scully – Susan Cummins
Sly Scully – Christopher Dunne
Gabriel Scully – Keith Ramsay

Creative Team
Director – Bronagh Lagan
Set and Costume Designer – Nik Corrall
Lighting Designer – Derek Anderson

The performance at 3.30pm Saqturday 23rd May is Extra Live! Click here for more info.
28th April – 23rd May 2015
Tuesday – Saturday at 8.45pm
Saturday matinees 3.45pm
Sunday matinees 3.45pm

Saturday 2nd May 2015


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