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A CurtainUp London London Review
The Night Alive

"No matter how regular I become, I'll never become as regular as other regulars." — Doc
The Night Alive
Ciaran Hinds as Tommy and Michael McElhatton behind as Doc (Photo: Helen Warner)
Conor McPherson directs his new play at the Donmar Warehouse where the revival of his play The Weir was recently well received. The Night Alive is set in Dublin in a large house that is past its best. Living there is Tommy (Ciaran Hinds), also past his prime, but who brings home one night, a girl Aimee (Caoilfhion, pronounced Kweelon, Dunne) who has been beaten up and has a bloody nose that might be broken. The stranger's presence makes Tommy aware that he should have cleaned up his flat and he hurriedly starts to tidy things away and throw out some of the rubbish, retrieving the dirty dishes from the bathroom, stacking up comics and books, and hiding the dirty underwear.

In Scene Two, Doc (Michael McElhatton) arrives. He works with Tommy in Tommy's removal business and is used to staying occasionally at the house (or in the van) when they need to start early. The presence of Aimee interferes with this. Doc is asked why he is called Doc and inexplicably tells us, it's just short for Brian. Doc is said to be several minutes behind at processing events which inspires the comedy.

Tommy's Uncle Maurice is the house owner and when the noise levels get too high will bang on the floor above but he is essentially a tolerant and kind landlord who misses his wife. Aimee is very unforthcoming and doesn't disclose much about herself but Doc tells Tommy something about Aimee's past. Doc, Aimee and Tommy dance to Marvin Gaye 's "What's Going On" in a joyful, synchronised moment. Just as everyone is starting to feel comfortable with each other and, when Doc is alone in the flat, a violent man Kenneth (Brian Gleeson) from Aimee's past arrives wielding a hammer, in a disturbing scene of incomprehensible battering.

Despite the violence and the seediness of the setting in Soutra Gilmour's detailed set, there is affection in this story of friendship and even romance as Tommy gets attached to Aimee and everyone finds sanctuary in Maurice's house. However she leaves and when she comes back it is to take his money so she can pay what she owes Kenneth. McPherson's characters are well drawn and the performances are spot on in conveying what holds us to a place and what makes us leave.

Ciaran Hinds' Tommy is a big lumbering man with a heart of Irish gold and we hate to see him taken for a ride by a young, pretty woman. But that's not the end of the story which I cannot reveal here. Tommy has left his marriage behind and is living a bachelor type existence hanging out with Doc. Hinds' performance is touching and at times socially awkward. He looks unkempt with a drooping moustache and long hair.

Conor McPherson's story continues to resonate with me days after I saw it, I think, because of its humanity. Some of this is down to the powerful performances but much is the skill of the storyteller.

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The Night Alive
Written and directed by Conor McPherson

Starring: Caoilfhionn Dunne, Brian Gleeson, Ciaran Hinds, Michael McElhatton, Jim Norton
Designed by Soutra Gilmour
Lighting: Neil Austin
Sound: Gregfory Clarke
Running time: One hour 45 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 0844 871 7624
Booking to 27th July 2013
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 17th June 2013 at the Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LX (Tube: Covent Garden)

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