Bogboy Surfaces: Theatre Review


How It’s New York:  It’s appearing as part of the 1st irish Festival, a New York Festival of Theatre arts which runs through Oct. 2!
How It’s Irish:  Deirdre Kinahan’s company Tall Tales Theatre Company is based in Navan, and the play takes on the ache of the Disappeared ruing the Troubles– and Ireland’s struggle to heal.

This is my review of Deirdre Kinahan’s play Bogboy, which appears at the Irish Arts Center as part of 1st irish.

I’m including the pdf from Irish examiner USA (9/13)below, which you can download, but because it’s kind of hard to read, I’m also reposting here!

Sorcha Fox (Russ Rwoland)

Bogboy’s Beauty Makes The Disappeared Real
Deirdre  Kinahan’s play Bogboy, appearing as part of the 1st Irish Festival ) at the Irish Arts Center , presses so heavily on the heart that it’s released only in tears.
But there’s a good bit of laughter, thanks to strong act-ing from Sorcha Fox (who was so good in The Cambria at Irish Arts Center), who plays Brigit, and Steve Blount, who plays Hugie (Noelle Brown and Emmet Kirwan are also good in their smaller roles, but the play is not about them), and to Kinahan’s deft fish-out-of- water character.
The play touches on The Disappeared, civilians mur-dered during the conflict in Northern Ireland and secretly buried.
In 1999, digs began throughout Southern, but only eight of seventeen named victims have been found, Kinahan informs us in the program note.
This knowledge is a bass note to Brigit’s story of going on a heroin rehab placement (why don’t we have these?) from the manicness of Dublin to the slow, sparse calm of County Meath, where she was six miles from her job at a cafe in Navan.
Standing looking for a lift she meets her neighbor Hughie, an older, bearded gentleman who speaks slowly and seems to think slowly, but who has the kind, soothing aspect of a cow.
He says “O,” and “grand,” and “no,” while she chatters and curses.
She compares the bog to a third-world county, saying “I mean it’s all right for the likes
of you…” but later, she comes to love it, seeing the bog holes seeping “like this is the place where the world opens up, opens up and sighs.”
We know to expect more, because the play opens with Brigit being informed by her former social worker Annie (Noelle Brown) that Hughie has died.
This drives her to write a letter to Bernie, the sister of Gerard, a disappeared 19-year old boy from Belfast and the bogboy of the title.
When the digging begins in Meath, the harmony of Brigit’s new life shatters – and Hughie breaks.
We know after the very first scene that he will die alone and depressed; that she will go back to drugs.
So how is it that knowing this, even as Brigit composes a letter to Bernie (narration and exposition both), we for- get, and hope things will work out?
Watching angry, damaged Brigit slow down, take in the landcape, and even learn to ride a bike (so she can make the    six    mile    journey    herself ) under Hughie’s instruction is touching and inspiring. We are rooting for her. We are hoping for him to find suc- cour for his loneliness. Even when you know it won’t end well.

Brigit: So I’m hoping you know.
Hughie: Well of course you are.
Brigit: But I don’t like it Hughie, I can tell you that. I don’t like hoping.
Hughie: Do you not?
Brigit: No. Hoping is bleed-in’ terrifying.

Steve Blount (Russ Rowland)

Originally written for radio, Kinahan and director Jo Mangan use a conceit of
characters not seeing each other.
This is not interlocking monologues; they address one another; they just don’t look.
The unusual choice invokes a sense of space and danger, as well as despera- tion.
Designer Ciaran Bagnall uses film to create gorgeous sunsets and menacing jour- neys; he isolates characters in light.
The shadows are atmos- pheric in every sense. Fox’s Brigit displays anger, fear and tenderness all balled up together; Hughie’s bewildered delivery has heart, and later, unforgettable anguish.
Noelle Brown is firmly sympathetic as Social Worker Annie, and Emmet Kirwan’s furious Darren, who’s been made to bring his and Brigit’s daughter Kaylie for a visit, destroys the peace of the bog with his anger.
It seems unfair – until Kinahan quietly lets us know something about Brigit that contextualizes it.
One of the things Kinahan does so well here, as she did with Hue and Cry (one of the picks of last year’s 1st Irish Festival), is omit.
Her characters speak from such a deep intimacy, that the hard things are so well known
they need only a mere allu- sion to wound.
It’s enough to wound the audience as well. We want to know more; we ache to hear less.
There is no clear redemp- tion for the characters in Bogboy. Each, in his own way, has erased himself from life. But they will be indelibly marked in your memory.

Bogboy opened Sept. 10 and runs through Sept. 25, Wed. – Fri. 8pm; Sat. at 2pm and pm; Sun. at 3pm, at the Irish Arts Center, 553 W. 51st St, bet. 10th and 11th Avenues. Tickets are $27, via or (866) 811-4111


Deirdre Kinahan, with brother Hughie and their Da, at the Irish Arts Center
Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.