I was invited to the world premiere of The Mariner by Irish writer Hugo Hamilton as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival last Thursday night. It’s set in 1916 during WW1 and tells the story of an injured sailor, Peter Shanley, after the Battle of Jutland in the North Sea. He has returned home to Cork after an incident in Portsmouth where he left his boat without permission and has been dishonourably charged from the Royal Navy. There is also some confusion as to his identity as his head is heavily bandaged and he has been rendered mostly mute and when he does speak he does not make any sense. The war has changed the boy his mother knew and she begins to question whether it is indeed her son. His wife is delighted to have him home and her love for him eventually is the key to drawing him back to reality. This leads to conflict between the three of them as the mother searches for answers.
It is lovely to see a play with two strong lead female characters. Sally, played by Lisa Dwyer Hogg, shines in the part of the young, slightly naive wife delighted to have her sweetheart home. The part of the overbearing mother, Mrs Shanley, is played splendidly by Ingrid Craigie. It is play about a mothers love versus a wives love and the struggle between the two but ultimately it is a tale of the brutal aftermath of war and the changes it leaves upon the people it touches. It is a very well written play using the power of dialogue to reveal just enough to make us question the man’s identity.
There is no interval and the play runs for about 90 minutes and this lack of interruption works well. The sparse staging and lighting add to the dark atmosphere. There is an injection of humour in the play throughout the dialogue which is much needed. Sally also adds a brightness and lightness to the play but ultimately war leads to a loss for everyone involved. I was kept captivated throughout the 90 minutes.
It is on in the Gate until 11th October. For more information and to book tickets, click on the link below: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/TheMariner2014