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“It’s a better story. And life is about having a good story. Isn’t it?”
I made my first visit to The Ireland Institute on Pearse Street to watch The Horror Writer a new play written by Emily Gilmor Murphy. it is easy to forget how closely connected Dublin is to the history of horror writing though walking through Grand Canal Harbour on the way to the theatre I passed the installation for the Bram Stoker Festival which reminded my that Dublin is a real home of horror writing.
This is Gilmor Murphy’s first foray into the horror genre though she is an accomplished playwright and novelist. She achieved the great feat of publishing her first book at the young age of twenty-one. Though, there is also a large slice of the whodunit included as well.
The Pearse Centre Theatre in the Ireland Institute is a great venue and it was packed on Friday for the opening performance of The Horror Writer. I had read a few pieces about the play but was still not sure what to expect. What I got was a very engaging, very funny and very well written story which kept the audience on the edge of their seats all the way to the final line.
The play tells the story of Theo Burn, an now ageing novelist who made his name writing horror stories. When we enter the theatre Theo is sitting in his rocking chair in, as we discover later, his nursing home room.
When he meets Dani, a nurse who has just taken a job in the nursing home in order to save money for her wedding, Theo reveals to Dani a story of horror. A story of how me met his wife and the circumstances which led to their marriage.
The play has everything you would want in a horror story. An old setting, werewolves, ghosts and of course murder.
The play is directed by Ciaran Gallagher who also co-directed the excellent Last Cornershop on Misery Hill earlier this year and he does an excellent job of bringing the play to life. It was not an easy task as the narrative jumps between the present day and the events of 1964, the year when Theo spent some time in his Uncle’s castle in Glendalough. The play is very well structured and despite the small stage it makes great use of the space. As we see Theo in his nursing home room, Dani and her fiancé Nick in their apartment and then Theo as he tells the story of the time he spent in his Uncle’s castle by the edge of the Glendalough lake. The lighting is also used to great effect to create atmosphere throughout and also to create shadows and faces that seemed to come from nowhere.
The acting is excellent. Sinead Keegan, Bryan Burroughs and Philip Arneill all deliver very accomplished performances. Each are very good at mixing the suspense which runs through the play with some excellent comic timing. All three actors are also very adept at portraying two different characters over the course of the play.
Emily Gilmor Murphy not only wrote the play, she produced it and was instrumental in the set design along with Gallagher and Mick Coleman and the team certainly made the most of the space. This is an excellent play and well worth getting along tonight to see the last performance. After it’s run in the Pearse Centre, the play will move to The Whale Theatre in Greystones for another performance. Though, I have no doubt we will see this again in the future and it is the perfect Halloween play.
Theo: Bryan Burroughs
Dani/ Marie: Sinead Keegan
Nick/ Patrick: Philip Arneill
Writer/ Producer: Emily Gilmor Murphy
Director/ Lightning Designer: Ciaran Gallagher
Set Design/ Construction: Mick Coleman, Emily Gilmor Murphy and Ciaran Gallagher
PR and Marketing: Cristina Florescu and Sarah Murphy
Dramaturg: Peter Dunne
Poster Design: Lucy Gillmor Murphy
Photography: Philip Arneill