Outside Mullingar is a tale set in rural Ireland; the Reillys and the Muldoons are caught up in a bizarre feud over a contested strip of land that separates their two farms. When his father threatens to disinherit him, Anthony Reilly discovers that Rosemary Muldoon holds the key to his future, their obstinacy keeps them apart and as time goes by their isolation brings them closer together.

The most striking element of this production is the beautifully created set designed by Richard Kent and built by Bristol Old Vic Scenic Workshop. It is equally well lit by David Plater.The advice that there is peat, hay and straw onstage alongside smoking suggests a recreation of authenticity where little has been overlookedNative New Yorker John Patrick Shanleymay well have had a positive response to this piece over the pond; however the dull and laborious script quashes any attempts that the company can make to create characters with enough detail to match this picture perfect cottage. It feels like an advertisement for the Ireland, but for all the wrong reasons.The sentimentality is excessive, whilst the humour sharp and dry, it is repetitive and prevents any truthful development.  The final scene touches on deep rooted emotions which allow an insight into the central characters; however it is too late and sadly lacks the necessary dramatic impact.

The cast work hard with the occasionally humorous script, but are limited in their progression. There are curious choices by Sam Yates (Director) in particular the crux of the final scene which explains so much of the complex behaviour of Anthony (Owen McDonnell) is rarely shown prior to this and the symbolism that would support the script missed in the development of the character. The scene changes are well choreographed but the general blocking lends to extended profiles and awkward pacing; the death scene of Tony (James Hayes) at odds with the brusque, brutal father he is seen to be.

Carol Macready as Aoife Muldoon and Deirdre O’Kane as long suffering Rosemary Muldoon complete the cast.  

I doubt that the noisy audience of foreign students helped the mood in the dressing rooms, as they were requested to be moved from their front row seats just prior to curtain up.

All eyes no doubt will now be on the much anticipated “The Mother” from the brilliant Florian Zeller to finish the Ustinov Season with a great flourish.

** (2 Stars)

Petra Schofield