Terminus at the Peacock Theatre

The Peacock Theatre continues its impressive scheduling of surrealist productions with Terminus, following the hugely successful run of Kicking a Dead Horse and the astonishingly graphic return of the enormously controversial Saved. Having featured two of the most influential American and British playwrights on its fine, newly constructed stage, the Peacock has returned to the national conscious, staging the home-grown Mark O'Rowe's first theatrical endeavour in over four years. O'Rowe, direct from a successful flirtation with that most commercial of media, the feature film, in his debut episodic tale – Intermission – rejoins his anecdotal monologue past in the Spartan-staged saga Terminus.


Focusing on his unique blend of metropolitan humour and literary turn of phrase Mark O'Rowe captures the essence of Ireland's capital city in most of his writing ventures, reminiscent of the contemporaneous Conor McPherson. Both articulate the spirit of a burgeoning international city inundated with peculiarly colourful characters but always ensure that the content remains specific to the darkly humorous vein that lives within the city's million-footed society.

O'Rowe's sprawling tales regularly feature a geographical travelogue of Dublin's smoky noir landscape and Terminus is no different, etching out a whirlwind of suburban filling stations and depressing inner city watering holes. The focus O'Rowe determines upon these heavily constructed images is positively Joycean in its scope, so much so that it seems as though he sets out to directly reference the literary master's peerless classics. Dublin becomes a central character of O'Rowe's work residing subliminally behind the narrative streams encompassing the story arches, creating a distinctive colour for the tales that infuses them with a life far broader than their natural substance. In Terminus O'Rowe collects the slightly interweaving narratives of A (Andrea Irvine), B (Eileen Walsh) and C (Aidan Kelly) – a triumvirate of modern Dublin characters. A is the troubled Samaritan attempting to make up for the wrongs she committed to her only daughter, B the lonely free-spirit struck down by failed relationships and C the Faustian would-be tenor dismally lost in his fear of attractive women.  

Shifting the story across the three monologues O'Rowe fashions a sweeping tale that is largely defined through verse in a lilting sing song structure. Each narrative begins in a slowly drawn out surreal escapade which rises to a swift and blistering centre piece of drama executed in heavily animated language before rapidly switching to the next character and tumbling to the patient build-up once again. The play is well staged, with O'Rowe himself organising the blackened out broken window exhibition where the audience purveys the three protagonists as if through a dreamy portal to the soul. The lighting executes an alert focus on each of the characters as the story switches back and forth and this helps to isolate the over arching theme of purgatorial sin as the protagonists each begin to understand the failures within their lives as the abrupt end approaches in its various ways. However, it is the theme itself which proves the most problematic aspect of the play. Though present and highlighted with care at several points, it remains largely distant throughout much of the play and extremely disappointingly proves particularly absent during A's poorly constructed conclusion. O'Rowe fails singularly to ensure his theme resonates right the way through all three stories which allows the individually excellent tales to become lessened when contemplated together.

 It is an unfortunate crux to the production because, as with any monologue or series of monologues, the choice of actor is virtually crucial and Terminus arranges three wholly superb thespians that provide a vigorous and powerful display. Each of the three appears to bounce off one another's performance in a passionate drive to outclass the formers spirited endeavour. Aidan Kelly (always a revelation) might just have shaded his female colleagues with a truly ferocious character development of his manic Faustian murderer. But this absolutely does not take away from Irvine and Walsh's absorbing portrayal of their fractured familial figures. Indeed Eileen Walsh is on a run of fine performances having appeared in the previous Peacock production of Edward Bond's merciless social diatribe Saved which so invigorated and vexed the theatre's regular punters.  

The Peacock Theatre continues to hold up to its aspirations of producing an eclectic mixture of experimental productions (giving the on-fire Project Arts Centre a run for its literary money) with yet another precision-engineered dose of thought provoking theatre for the Dublin masses to feed upon. It is just a slight pity that the central theme of this classy piece dissolves a smidgeon under the huge strength of its trilogy of stories. Nevertheless, Terminus remains a highly entertaining and surreally delivered production.