Be Infants in Evil

Marty Rea in Druid Theatre Company's production of Be Infants in Evil by Brian Martin.

Marty Rea in Druid Theatre Company's production of Be Infants in Evil by Brian Martin.

Marty Rea in Druid Theatre Company's production of Be Infants in Evil by Brian Martin.

Marty Rea in Druid Theatre Company's production of Be Infants in Evil by Brian Martin.

For his professional debut, playwright Brian Martin chose a subject that wasn’t easy. At its most provocative it might shed some light: what do we really know about paedophilia? While definitions vary between medical disorder, sociopathic condition and sexual orientation, debates over their applicability don’t really get heard. Society’s outcries at child abuse scandals have been piercing, the shock waves of such revelations resounding; disturbing even the ground underneath any public conversation that might otherwise help to explain them. However, if we are to accept paedophilia as simply taboo then are we preventing ourselves from understanding it? Furthermore, are we risking certain irrationalities, especially to condemn all paedophiles as child molesters?

It is in this climate that Martin’s tragicomedy begins, finding a weary priest, Patrick (Marty Rea), on his knees, alone in his sacristy, rolling prayers over and over in desperate whispers. His parishioners don’t leave him alone for long. Noleen (Marion O’Dwyer), a blind widow, would like him to hear her confession. Jacinta (Roxanna Nic Liam), an unmarried mother, bursts in wearing a Muslim niqab demanding a personal phone call from the archbishop to clarify her conversion.

These interruptions and their developments continue to be a bit too convenient. We’re not fully sure how Jacinta got her hands on an incriminating correspondence from Patrick’s old parish, and Noleen’s revelation of being able to ‘see’ despite being blind strains the irony. Yet Oonagh Murphy’s staging is well-sustained and O’Dwyer and Nic Liam cover the cracks well.

It is with the arrival of Henry (Bailey Hayden), a twelve-year-old boy from Patrick’s past, that the play’s political and unconvincing attributes blow up respectively. Martin’s script retains a daring ambiguity during the exchange - somewhere between talking about kilojoules and entropy you sense that the two might be flirting. Importantly, the playwright clearly distinguishes paedophiliac desire from acting upon it, as Patrick refuses what is portrayed as Henry’s pursuit of affection. From Rea’s well-wrought performance you feel that there is nowhere for the character to go for consolation.

It’s also here that the play starts to seriously depart from credibility. Patrick spews cosmic percentages about finding love and Henry presents a gift of a jar of his own semen – a bizarre and ornate gesture of his pubescence. These wildly purple and failed attempts at depth, along with the returns of Noleen and Jacinta, only increase the momentum with which Be Infants in Evil spins out of control.

With further revelations concerning a sighting of the Virgin Mary and a planned abortion, the sensational twists are what let down Martin’s ambitious approach to a heavily stigmatized subject. You don’t buy Patrick’s extreme actions at the end – punching a pregnant Jacinta in the stomach, or reaching for a gun to kill himself. These allusions to an irreconcilable reality and a discriminating culture are timely and important, but ultimately this drama is firing blanks.

Chris McCormack writes about Irish theatre on

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Be Infants in Evil by Brian Martin

Jul 10-26

Produced by Druid Theatre Company
In Mick Lally Theatre

Director: Oonagh Murphy

Designer: Alyson Cummins

Lighting Designer: Stephen Dodd

Dramaturg: Thomas Conway


Priest: Marty Rea

Noleen: Marion O'Dwyer

Jacinta: Roxana Nic Liam

Henry: Bailey Hayden