The Early Hours

HAW Theatre presents 'The Early Hours' by Bernard Field.

HAW Theatre presents 'The Early Hours' by Bernard Field.

HAW Theatre presents 'The Early Hours' by Bernard Field.

HAW Theatre presents 'The Early Hours' by Bernard Field.

Established by Bernard Field, Haw Theatre had its debut production around this time last year with Last Train from Holyhead, written by Field and staring the late Mick Lally. Following this success, the company is back again with another blast of Field’s psychological realism. The Early Hours dramatizes the interactions between Kate French, an American lawyer living in Dublin, the intruder she finds one night in her home, and the police inspector who investigates the case.

Relaxed and happy after returning from a night on the town, Kate (Anarosa De Eizaguirre Butler) returns to her apartment. Iris Merz’s set typified the urban living space of a female professional; Liam Ivers’ city sounds, which entered sporadically through an open door or window, also helped to set the scene. Together, these features conveyed a sense of a comfortable, middleclass haven from the precarious, nocturnal bustle of the external city, and De Eizaguirre Butler was adept with Kate’s New York attitude and dialect. Through the intercom, Kate 'The Early Hours' by Bernard Field.chats with her drinking buddies, making anecdotal comparisons between Ireland and America. But her perceptions of Ireland as homely and idyllic are shattered when she is grabbed from behind and urged not to scream.

Following the initial shock, Kate and her intruder establish shaky communication. Frantically, he explains that he is seeking refuge having fatally stabbed someone, but that he not a murderer. This speech epitomises the way in which Field’s script probes the labels that we use and reveals that nothing is simply black or white. Callaghan O’Connell inhabited the ashamed, panic-stricken and unstable intruder with ease. His demeanour and accent were significantly at odds with his purported profession as a trainee anaesthetist. In these early scenes the dialogue titillates with hints of flirtation and clues about the characters’ personal lives, until silence falls as the two retire for the night. Yet, in the half-light of the early hours (fittingly neither dark nor light), the incident that transforms their worlds takes place.

The advent of Inspector Pearse, a provocative figure effortlessly played by Field himself, furthers the senses of ambiguity and duality that are central to this play. Pearse’s expertly composed lines are filled with puns and innuendo as he antagonises each character in his quest for truth.

The creative highlights of the production occurred during the scene in which Pearse interrogates the intruder. Colm Iver’s use of a spotlight produced a chiaroscuro effect that appropriately evoked the Film Noir genre, increasing the suspense as we strain to ascertain the facts. While these moments were visually obscure in the 'The Early Hours' by Bernard Field.production, the writing offers a revelatory shift on which the rest of the drama hinges. Jim Ivers’ direction elicits passionate performances from Field and O’Connell. However, the scene concludes with an emotional outburst from Pearse that seems both out of character and out of context.

The Early Hours responds to the contemporary return of fundamentalist notions of good and evil, evidenced in sensationalised newspaper headlines about crime. In this drama, no character is what he or she initially seems, and each approaches the situation with a personal agenda. Like Kate, we find ourselves sympathising at times with the alleged perpetrator. The drama seeks to complicate subjects that are both pertinent and sensitive such as parental negligence, infidelity, police corruption, mental illness, sex crimes and hostage situations. Impressively, Field succeeds in stimulating a wealth of complex enquiry. Long after its reception, The Early Hours haunts its audience with questions about the issues it evokes and about its own elusive story.

Siobhán O’Gorman is currently completing a doctoral research project on gender and the canon in contemporary theatre at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

  • Review
  • Theatre

The Early Hours by Bernard Field

4 - 9 October, 2010

Produced by Haw Theatre
In Town Hall Studio, Galway

Directed by Jim Ivers

Lighting Design: Colm Ivers

Sound Design: Liam Ivers

Set and Costumes: Iris Merz

With: Anarosa De Eizaguirre Butler, Callaghan O’Connell and Bernard Field.