Molly Sweeney Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
National Theatre of Scotland
Gregory Thomson (director), Ellen Cairns (designer), Stuart Jenkins (lighting designer)
Cara Kelly (Molly), Oengus MacNamarra (Mr. Rice), Michael Glenn Murphy (Frank)
Running time

Deftly and delicately, Cara Kelly's Molly Sweeney introduces us to the world of sightlessness. As a young child deprived of visual sensation in her early days, Molly's father taught her recognition by touch and smell. Grown up, she is acutely sensual, articulate in ways those with sight might only grope toward. A chance encounter between her ebullient husband Frank and distinguished ophthalmologist Mr. Rice propels Molly on a roller-coaster journey toward restored sight and deeply impaired vision.

Brian Friel's play is a particularly close reading of our perceptions of... perception, in both physical, sensual terms, and of those shadowed borders of our understanding, between fact and fantasy, reality and imagination, where we make the world our own world.

Taking the chance, which Mr. Rice reluctantly offers, of restoring at least some sight, Molly moves from the familiar to the unknown, from a world whose limits she has come to appreciate and accept, from assured mastery of her surroundings and those who inhabit them, into an arena where she recognises and understands less and less the more able she is to 'see' in sighted terms.

Yet the course of Molly's condition is more complex than even the experienced Rice can ultimately deal with. The doors of perception do not swing wide and welcoming for one who was blind but now can see. Molly's state of mind and sense of self pay a considerable price for her faltering, fading vision, and we are left with both a suspicion that the early damage which Molly suffered may not have been confined to her eyesight, and a question as to how far her apparently firm sense of the world at the play's beginning was due to her own confidence.

Molly Sweeney is a play which deeply repays close attention, but although writer, cast and production wrestle the conundrum of consciousness to the canvas, any answer quite rightly manages to elude definitive analysis.

Cara Kelly's interpretation of Molly Sweeney is stunning, dominating the production as the character clearly attempts to dominate life. Oengus MacNamarra is excellent as the wounded, confused Mr. Rice and Michael Glenn Murphy equally so in the role of Frank, Molly's long-suffering, enthusiastic husband. Gregory Thomson reprises his direction of this play at the Tron Theatre for a different space, but with equally high production values.

Times: 7.45pm, until 15th December 2007