Fishamble’s Paradise Review: A Movie About a Small Town Couple and a Big Lie

Mal and Mairead are married and 50. Their friendship is strong but the romance, as it once was, has waned. Their 19-year-old daughter just ran away from home. They travel to Mairead’s Midlands hometown for her sister’s wedding, where she meets a former flame again and the hole in her life suddenly feels like a wormhole. Mal soon told us what the problem was. He always knew he was attracted to men but that “didn’t fit the way I wanted to live”.

ugene O’Brien’s new play follows the same shape as his previous great success Eden: interspersed monologues. The strength of the article lies in the fact that he has observed the depth of the feeling of longing and struggle in the human heart. The text is lyrical and candidly sexual, and fits so perfectly in the textural detail of the small towns and their inhabitants that their reality is evident. It’s also very funny.

Mal, feeling vulnerable after a heart attack, began drifting into a gay life in fantasy involving fantasies about Jesus. He sees Jesus in real life as a wedding guest, and his lifelong resistance begins to crack. Mairead is a fascinating, outspoken, boozy and self-possessed creature.

In this production of Fishamble, New Play Company, Jim Culleton directs with a keen eye for humour. Zia Bergin-Holly’s photo series evokes a drab townscape with bright street lights illuminating corners of deep normality.


Andrew Bennett and Janet Moran in Eugene O’Brien’s Fishamble’s Heaven. Ste Murray’s photo

Janet Moran evokes great empathy as Mairead. Andrew Bennett is a little more hesitant to play Mal, but he has delivered many comic books with his own idiosyncrasies, and his bewildering journey toward self-realization has been satisfying. Mairead’s ending, which turns sentimental, doesn’t feel quite right.

But despite that, it’s an incredibly compelling portrait of the kind of Irish marriage practiced at a time when gay life was illegal. O’Brien doesn’t like politics or sociology; instead, he gives us a sharp and intelligent look at people who are giving their best while living a stunted life based on lies. Fishamble’s Paradise Review: A Movie About a Small Town Couple and a Big Lie

Fry Electronics Team

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