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The Irish Independent - July 13th 2011
An agitated man explodes manically on to the stage like a bent bullet out of a pistol in Enda Walsh's Misterman, which received its world premiere this week at the Galway Arts Festival in a Landmark Production. This anti-hero is Thomas Magill, a dishevelled and distressed character whose mission is to spread the word of the Lord to the unenlightened and unwilling villagers of Inishfree.
Thomas goes to the local grocery shop to buy Jammy Dodgers for his mother, visits his father's grave, enjoys a slice of cake in the teashop, is invited in for tea at the garage and takes a stroll with an angel. All the time his fervent preaching falls on deaf ears. And, all the time, he is becoming more frantic, more savage, more unravelled.
Although we are taken on a journey through this country village and through his mind, the world Thomas actually inhabits is a gaping warehouse. The voices he hears, the voices he battles against, come through a television, the recorders and, most potently, his own mouth.
Misterman is an early one-man play by Walsh, but it has been rewritten for a production that reunites Walsh with the leading man of the debut production of his breakthrough play, Disco Pigs, Cillian Murphy. It may be 15 years since they worked together, but there is an evident bond between their theatrical sensibilities.
Walsh directs his own syncopated poetic verbal rhythms to allow them appear simultaneously rational and utterly irrational. And there are moments of tenderness that intercept the disintegration towards pure madness.
Jamie Vartan's industrial set design and Donnacha Dennehy's often ferocious, often sacred soundscape are exquisitely realised and integral elements. There's something almost anarchic, about the decision to stage what is essentially an intimate work in such a vast echoing space. And this demonstrates a faith that the audience will be gripped by its essence, even if some of it is performed out of their direct eyeline, that they will crane their heads and sit in unbroken silence as they did on the opening night, held so utterly captive, but dreading to know what happens next.
Everything hinges, however, on Murphy's performance. His Thomas Magill oscillates from quiet devastation to a thunder clap of unhinged brutality and yet has a twisted sweetness that holds you.
Murphy presents one of the most heartbreaking performances we will have the privilege to witness. This is theatre at its most raw, most barbaric and most beautiful.