Here We Are Again Still

'Here We Are Again Still' by Christian O'Reilly.

'Here We Are Again Still' by Christian O'Reilly.

There is something iconic about a bench sitting centre-stage. One of theatre’s fail-safe emblems, it is a useful multi-purpose tool for an instant mise-en-scène: waiting, meeting, resting, watching; all are signified by this small, ubiquitous structure. Thus, as the lights go up on Christian O’Reilly’s gently humorous peek into urban survival in Here We Are Again Still, a bit of the story is already told before it unfolds.

Elderly Paddy (Eamonn Hunt) is a long-term resident of a housing estate overlooking a parkland of football pitches. Fiercely territorial, he defends both the bench in front of his apartment and his ideologies from attack. At first, his stubborn desire for solitude is disrupted by the well-intended nagging of neighbour Imelda (Bríd Ní Neachtain). Then a more serious threat arrives in the form of a disenfranchised youth who sits on his bench: the similarly isolated Tony (Andy Kellegher). Both men are damaged goods and searching for a reason for getting out of bed in the morning. The burgeoning relationship, unlikely as it may be, grows through a shared interest in soccer.

Drawing on a series of interviews with local residents of Galway’s Walter Macken Place, O’Reilly’s portrait of a people struggling for self-fulfilment and place is understandably non-judgemental and strictly naturalistic: the evolving relationship between the two men is written efficiently and carefully, with a sensitive (occasionally Pinteresque) ear for the twists and turns of conversation. The life-stories they tell are depressingly credible. It is a whisper of the Everyman’s prosaic life that must resonate in all corners of urban Ireland. O’Reilly may have to steer dangerously close to archetype to allow dramatic frisson (curmudgeonly Oldie meets hoodie-clad youth), but his characters are generally engaging representatives of their world. The ‘realist’ writing here means that emotion and action are subdued but, especially in the second act, sufficient tension arises through the gradual revelation of Tony’s troubled past and eventual thawing of the conservatively non-committal Paddy.

O’Reilly’s desire to have art imitate nature so closely is helped by director Andrew Flynn’s careful teasing out of the naturalistic dialogue and through Flynn’s clever casting, particularly in the choice of Andy Kellegher, whose understated performance is a quietly intense portrayal of a young man struggling to cling on to the fringes of civilisation. Bríd Ní Neachtain is a humorously bossy Imelda, and Eamonn Hunt a convincingly reluctant saviour. Flynn injects as much pace and fluidity as he can in a play that courts realism over high drama, although his scene changes are punctuated with an explicably meandering sound design of upright piano stuck in an echo chamber that bears little relationship to either context or mood of the events it introduces or succeeds.

Here We Are Again Still is a play of minor revelations eked out in corner of an urban landscape that is forever Irish. It reflects a populace faced by seemingly insurmountable problems, forced to reinvent and re-evaluate itself. As a magnifying glass held up to the post-Celtic Tiger jungle, O’Reilly’s play works, even if it may seem to lack to lack bite: the work is more respectful social observation than drama.

Matthew Harrison

  • Review
  • Theatre

Here We Are Again Still by Christian O'Reilly

10 May - 4 June, 2011; on tour.

Produced by Christian O’Reilly, St. John’s Listowel, Decadent Theatre & Nuns Island Theatre.
In Town Hall Theatre

Directed by Andrew Flynn

Set design: Owen MacCarthaigh

With: Eamonn Hunt, Andy Kellegher, Bríd Ní Neachtain

Presented by Christian O’Reilly, St. John’s Listowel, in partnership with Decadent Theatre & Nuns Island Theatre.

Here We Are Again Still toured nationwide as part of The Bealtaine Festival 2011.