It has taken me a while to write this post, because I really want to do Ballyturk, a wonderful piece of genius, justice. Written and directed by Enda Walsh, starring the award-winning Cillian Murphy, Mikel Murfi and Stephen Rea, Ballyturk questions what it is to live. You are left feeling completely exhausted but in complete wonder, wanting to watch it again and again.
On the 19th September I had the privilege to hear Enda Walsh talk at The National Theatre ahead of that night’s performance. It was an incredibly interesting insight into the creation of such sensational words. It was interesting to hear about the concept behind this fast and slightly mad play. He talked about what it is to live, and how even though we know we are going to die, we just keep on living. We get jobs, get married, have children etc. We cling onto certain relationships while letting others go.
In Ballyturk, we are given no time, or place, and the characters are named 1 and 2. You see two men, in a room, who together go to the town of Ballyturk. The first 20 minutes is full of laughs, particularly the fun and incredibly energetic physical sequences to 80s classics; this includes ABC’s ‘The Look of Love’. But soon the energy in the air changes and you feel like everyone in the audience is holding their breath. Number 3 enters, testing the relationship between 1 and 2. As Enda Walsh puts it “watching that very innocent relationship being put under huge pressure when it realises that there’s death in the room.”
The acting, during all of the performances I saw, was faultless. So much energy and life is brought to the stage, grabbing the attention of the audience for the entire 90 minutes. Cillian Murphy was impeccable. His character was incredibly vulnerable and innocent; he has this incredible physicality that means you could watch him perform all day. He is one of my favourite actors and really is one of the finest actors of his generation.
Another stand out feature of this production was the set design. The massive set brought further life to the writing, providing some clues to where it was set and the time period. This shows how important this visual is to the audience. Designed by Jamie Vartan, with lighting by Adam Silverman and sound by Helen Atkinson, the set was visually exciting and captivating. A large concrete back wall, plastered in drawings, with a large neon ‘Ballyturk’ sign, captured the quite dark undertones of the piece. Looking like a prison wall, it represented how the characters are trapped in their own imaginary world, questioning what is real. It was solid, but at times broke down, crashing and destroying the dreams of the characters. The fractures in the wall came when there were fractures in their fragile relationship.
It’s rare for a piece of theatre to have such a lasting effect on you. I’m still thinking about it and will be for a long time. You remember the comedy, but are haunted by the thrilling words. After seeing this play three times, I can honestly say it is the best experience in theatre I have ever had.
The show finishes this evening. I’m actually going to miss going on Twitter and seeing people’s reactions after watching it. Theatre is such a collaborative experience as you are sharing these moments and feelings with the strangers around you. You are all connected in some way without ever speaking before.
Watch an interview with Enda and the cast here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Szhk1FBk8FQ
Listen to Enda’s platform from 19th September: https://soundcloud.com/nationaltheatre/enda-walsh-on-ballyturk
Photo from: http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/