Brian Friel’s last play, “The Home Place” played at the Irish Rep. I have seen several of Friel’s plays and this one doesn’t disappoint. The plays main crux is Christopher Gore, (John Windsor Cunningham) , the land owner of the home where the play is set, and a landlord for other tenements, is hosting his cousin, Dr Richard Gore,(Christopher Randolph) , who is doing an archaeological experiment on the Islands peasants. The Dr is measuring the Irish heads to see why they are inferior to the rest of Western Europe and why the three races that integrated in Ireland, The Scots, The Nords and the Spanish influences are all doing well in this Country.
The Home Place is a term used to describe the Country England , when Christopher and Richard talk about England, they call it the Home Place.
The play presents all the characters nicely, it lays out the plot quickly and makes you aware that there is trouble brewing over the land share when Con Doherty, (Johnny Hopkins), and his friend Johnny Mc Loone show up . Con is dating one of Christopher’s servants, Sally Cavanagh, (Andrea Green), and from the start you know Con is looking for trouble with any and every foreign land owner.Sally works for Maggie, Margret O’ Donnell, (Rachel Pickup), the head maid and the main character of this play.
Maggie is torn between the old days and working for Christopher, she respects him and knows he needs her as he is getting older and not as sharp as he once was. She also loves his son, David, (Ed Malone), who is not the sharpest tool, but it is a way out for her as David will inherit the land from his father. She is the daughter of Clement O’Donnell, (Robert Lloyd), the music director at the school. She is embarrassed by him as he is a drunk, but very talented musically. Maggie sees the Gores as both a step up and a way out . Christopher is smitten by her, he too wants too marry her.She denies him, yet she will not let David tell his dad he wants to marry Maggie, as it is a step down. Maggie wants to protect Christopher from this reality, as Christopher ,too is torn by his roots. he feels like an outsider in both England and Ireland. When confronted by Con about Richards study, Christopher Acquiesces and makes his cousin leave, which leads Maggie to fire Sally, Con’s girlfriend.
The play is very moving, funny and deep in thought, it challenges you to think about what Friel is putting forth. The play moves evenly and the time goes by quickly, very enjoyable.
Robert M Massimi.