A half empty bottle of whisky, old newspapers, CDs in broken cases, faded posters and a dusty taxi cab; the tangible remnants of someone’s life can seem remarkably empty when laid out on stage before you.
Transforming the intimate Trafalgar Studios 2 space into a dishevelled workshop full of such objects, Darren Murphy’s Irish Blood, English Heart is an emotional drama that deals with a colossal heap of themes following the death of an estranged father. Family relations, the danger of false memories, sibling rivalry, abuse and immigration are all dealt with in an intense two hours.
The play is set in south London, where second generation Irish immigrant cab driver Con waits in his recently deceased father’s workshop for his not-so-prodigal brother Ray to arrive. Having moved to New York following the successful publication of a novel that, despite his refusal to admit it, appears uncomfortably auto-biographical, Ray’s reluctance to be drawn back into long buried family issues fills the Trafalgar Studio space with an awkward tension.
Throw in Con’s mouthy wife – who feels Ray owes them for stealing their identities for use in his book – and a mystery in the shape of a young man whose own experiences with their father doesn’t seem to tally in anyway to their memory of him, and you have a drama shrouded in secrecy with dangerously raw emotions threatening to spill out with every loaded sentence.
As the group meet to wade through the objects left behind by a man whose cruel, dogged approach to life has left them all scarred, their own lives are bought under the spotlight as the ramifications of their pasts are made clear.
Ian Groombridge is heartbreaking as the desperate Con who struggles to hold onto the little sense of pride he has left for his father. But Ray’s brutally recounted stories about the true reality of the man slowly chip away at Con’s fairy tale memories, providing a far more revealing and gripping narrative.