47 Roses

Bewley's Café Theatre presents Peter Sheridan in '47 Roses'.

Bewley's Café Theatre presents Peter Sheridan in '47 Roses'.

Bewleys Café Theatre presents Peter Sheridan in '47 Roses'.

Bewleys Café Theatre presents Peter Sheridan in '47 Roses'.

47 Roses, a one-man show devised from Peter Sheridan’s memoir of the same title and performed by the author, draws on Sheridan family inner-city Dublin life recognizable from the work of both Jim and Peter Sheridan in various media. This is the tale of a triangular stalemate forged by Sheridan’s parents, Peter and Anna, and Doris, a Lancashire woman who was a regular visitor to their home. Sheridan gives us both a familiar plot and a true story – an adult child uncovering a damaging secret in the life of a recently dead parent. The genre necessitates imaginative speculation to piece together disturbing and sensitive information, and Sheridan’s monologue slowly unspools his father’s longstanding affair with Doris, and Anna’s truculent toleration of the third party in her marriage. 47 Roses began as a tribute to his father, but includes memories of his brother Frankie whose untimely death had a devastating effect on the family. This subplot, while it increases sympathy for both grieving parents, dilutes dramatic tension, perhaps purposefully so.

Peter SheridanMaggie Byrne’s direction maximises Sheridan’s skill as a physical and comic actor, choreographing his childhood rooftop struggle with a recalcitrant aerial as television arrives in Saville Place, and his mimicking of quirky uncles and the rolling gait of Gary Cooper in High Noon. A repertoire of the father’s favourite tunes includes the entire lyric of 'Frankie and Johnny', where a couple of verses would have done. The minimal set consists of a couple of sticks of plain furniture setting off a large vase of red and white flowers – a vivid reminder of Doris’ continuing graveside offerings in the colours of Da’s beloved Manchester United.

Despite omnipresent bereavement, 47 Roses is presented as light-hearted, popular theatre, and as such can only be said to succeed. The overflowing lunchtime crowd at Bewley’s, mostly Dubliners of a certain vintage, came knowing what to expect and were not disappointed.

But what of the delicate refusal to come to grips with the fundamental betrayal of trust at the heart of the piece? That the Sheridan marriage was a loving one is undeniable on the evidence given, but Anna Sheridan’s grim acceptance of her husband’s dual fidelity (he gives away Doris’ daughter on her wedding day, thereby increasing doubts of her paternity) surely also reflects her limited choices as a working-class mother of six. The problem was never confronted within the marriage nor is it by the author who, while capturing the poignancy of the plight of both women, allows Sheridan Senior, obviously a man of great charm and a loving father, to emerge as simply a bit of a lad.

The curious son digs deeply among the treasures stored in the attic, searches in vain for the cache of missing letters between the lovers, and even goes to England to challenge the aged and passive-aggressive interloper on her own turf, but in the end he does not dig deeply enough.

Christina Hunt Mahony, who directed the Center for Irish Studies at the Catholic University of America, now lectures in Trinity College. She is the editor of Out of History: Essays on the Writings of Sebastian Barry.

  • Review
  • Theatre

47 Roses by Peter Sheridan

15 March - 23 April, 2011

Produced by Bewley’s Café Theatre
In Bewley’s Café Theatre

Written and performed by Peter Sheridan

Directed by Maggie Byrne