'Bedbound' by Enda Walsh presented at The New Theatre by Pillowtalk. Photo: Cian O'Loingsigh

'Bedbound' by Enda Walsh presented at The New Theatre by Pillowtalk. Photo: Cian O'Loingsigh

 'Bedbound' by Enda Walsh presented at The New Theatre by Pillowtalk. Photo: Cian O'Loingsigh

'Bedbound' by Enda Walsh presented at The New Theatre by Pillowtalk. Photo: Cian O'Loingsigh

Enda Walsh just can’t stop talking, can he? Or, more appropriately, his characters can’t. A number of Walsh’s plays have characters that vomit forth language, as if the act of speaking were as crucial to moment-to-moment survival as the involuntary beating of the heart. This is particularly true in his 2000 play Bedbound, where a monomaniacal furniture salesman from Cork has imprisoned himself and his adult daughter, a polio victim, in her childhood bed. The daughter (Sara Joyce), has been there for a decade, every since contracting the disease and thus derailing her father’s ambitions to turn his furniture business into a family empire. The father (Fionn Ó Loingsigh), on the other hand, is a more recent addition to her prison. So, in Daughter’s manky bed they sit, as infused into the duvet and sheets as the years of stains from the bodily seepages of their existence. As Daughter battles silence with an incessant stream of consciousness, Father, in a fiery performance by Ó Loingsigh, reconstructs and relives the circumstances that led him to his current predicament.

Director Rosemary McKenna’s production captures in disturbing detail the physical abjection that Walsh’s script relishes in. We’re introduced to the daughter surrounded by a sea of heavily stained bedclothes and literally regurgitating a thin liquid before she lets loose with a metaphorical disgorging of language. Such a moment comes across as a bit gimmicky, given that Walsh’s own language carries enough grotesque images of bodily putrefaction to disturb the audience to the core, without having an actor overplay their hand with real-time dribbling.

bedbound_sml.jpgNonetheless, McKenna, set designer Zia Holly and lighting designer Dan Bergin have created an impressively evocative space on the stage of the New Theatre, where Walsh directed the play’s world premiere eleven years ago. Encircling Daughter’s bed is a barricade of disused furniture embedded with stray bulbs from junked lamps and chandeliers that glow and pulse at times with the actors’ voices and actions. Sound designer Ciarán Clarke’s and composer Jane Deasy’s stealthy soundscape hums unnervingly beneath the actors’ performances, causing little quakes here and there that mark a world constantly on the verge of collapse.

McKenna and her committed actors also make the most of this imposing space. While Joyce is primarily anchored to the bed, she becomes the centre around which orbits the enthusiastically physical performance of Ó Loingsigh’s Father. Ó Loingsigh skillfully gives immediate and specific embodiment to the times and places of his character’s remembrances, all while Joyce’s Daughter cannily stage-manages his story behind a mask of seeming vulnerability. Both actors are clearly talented; however, the question of casting can’t help but rear its head. Both actors are in their early twenties, and while Joyce fits the role of Daughter like a glove, Ó Loinsigh’s Father, whom Walsh indicates is in his fifties, lacks the emotional range to be fully fleshed out. Add to this an inability at times to adequately articulate Walsh’s whirlwind language, and what we’re left with ultimately are uneven, though no less dedicated, performances.

Jesse Weaver was recently awarded a PhD in Theatre Studies from UCC, and is a playwright.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Bedbound by Enda Walsh

10 Aug - 10 Sept, 2011

Produced by Pillowtalk
In The New Theatre

Directed by Rosemary McKenna

Set Design: Zia Holly

Lighting Design: Dan Bergin

Composer: Jane Deasy

Sound Design: Ciarán Clarke’s and

With: Fionn Ó Loingsigh, Sara Joyce