John O’Donovan’s new play takes us to rural Ireland where every year Barry, Cusack, and Pa(trick) meet up on the anniversary of their school friend Liam’s death. Now double the age they were when Liam died, the mens’ lives have changed significantly since they were 17 and taking the Leaving Cert.
Our setting is an empty shack on the outskirts of town where these men have spent each passing anniversary downing cans, taking drugs and throwing darts; an ever dwindling group of attendees showing the loss of Liam from others’ memories.
All three of our characters have recently faced upheaval. Cusack (Conor Madden) has married the town millionaire’s daughter and has found one night of freedom, following the birth of his son, to commemorate the loss of his friend. Pa (Rhys Dunlop) is stuck in the past – getting by on various illegal substances, beer, and the help of benefits; he has recently become homeless following years of instability in his work and personal life. Barry (Colin Campbell) works long hours at the nearest airport and in his spare moments watches thousands of people ‘escape’ to somewhere better as they take off. Barry has his own opportunity to ‘escape’ with his partner Roisin, but her adultery leaves him questioning the last decade of his life.
All four men centre around the dart board scoring points and pushing each other to drink away their misery. The dart board, unlike the lives of these men, has not changed in 17 years and the point-system of play and drinking that goes with it connects the group’s past and present.
At varying points in the story, all three men perform a long monologue documenting Liam’s final months on earth. We see Liam as he drops out of college, loses the girl he loves and finds himself alone laid out on the road. This directorial choice from Thomas Martin shows the mens’ attachment to their past and Liam’s role in their future.
A true strength of this production lies in the emotional connection between the three characters. The strength through longevity of these mens’ friendships is palpable throughout the piece with the smallest touches and glances showing decades of shared memories and upbringing.
The physical set is nuanced and thoughtful with leftover candles from Liam’s first night with a woman and crumpled cans from previous years of mourning – the teenage den, much like Liam, does not change with time, it is stuck in the past.
This piece is poignant, moving and reflective. O’Donovan’s writing gives these characters such depth and authenticity that their loss sears through the hearts of the audience.
Flights is playing at Omnibus Theatre until 29 February. For more information and tickets visit the Omnibus website.