Christmas in Dublin once again

Conor McPherson's play, 'A Dublin Carol' captures the life and struggles of an alcoholic in an all too knowledgable manner. By Tom Rowe

Written in 1999, 'A Dublin Carol' is set in a shoddy undertaker's office on Christmas Eve, staffed by the equally shoddy main character John Plunkett. Played by veteran actor of stage and screen Liam Carney, John is a long-term alcoholic, struggling to hold himself and his job together until he finds another drink.

Carney plays John as a tragic figure who almost manages to keep up appearances, going about his routines with loud gusto, proclaiming to his young colleague Mark on all manner of topics. Carney is maniacally comical in the first of the three scenes, his often sombre subjects of conversation being interspersed with gags and boyish humour. "What superhero would you be?" asks John of Mark, an office boy with plans of escape, realistically acted by Stephen Kelly. Answering his own question, John deadpans "I'd be ejiit boy".

The second scene again features a dialogue, this time between John and his estranged daughter Mary. So out of contact is he that John is forced to ask the most basic questions about his family. Vanessa Keogh, as Mary, gives a strong performance as a girl who suffered due to her fathers alcoholism, yet is still prepared to forgive him, out of love. John finds this unbearable to listen to, as is the news that his dying wife wants to see him.

Autobiographical to an extent, 'A Dublin Carol' was written when theplaywright was an alcoholic himself. He has described it as his "uncomfortable and difficult" play. McPherson writes intelligently on the delusions of the drinker, as well as the reasons for drinking. He vividly describes the effects of alcoholism on the mind as well as on family life.

John Plunkett remains a drinker, but also retains the hope of redemption, as do his wife and children. The final scene leaves the audience without much faith in the likelihood of change in a person, but marveling at the possibility that it may occur.

'A Dublin Carol' is an Everyman Palace Theatre production. It continues in the Civic Theatre Tallaght until 3 February, then tours Cork, Tralee, Galway, Ennis, Kilkenny and Limerick, until 24 March.