Donmar Dryden Street – until 5 October 2018
The Donmar has set about making this production of Conor McPherson’s monologue St Nicholas an exclusive, intimate and atmospheric experience.
Performed by Brendan Coyle at the theatre’s rehearsal space in Dryden Street, the temptation must have been to squeeze in as many seats as possible. However, with only 50-odd tickets per performance, there is a generous amount of space which makes the seats feel part of the set.
The space is dressed to look like a faded drawing room or study with an old-fashioned desk, manual typewriter and a leather, swivel chair; the audience is drawn around in a sweeping arc as if invited in for a social gathering or recital.
The carpet is threadbare and dotted with water-filled buckets. Newspaper covers the windows, the lighting is dim; later you’ll feel like you are part of a seance, watching Coyle conjure up dark demons. He starts by drawing a kind of barrier, throwing handfuls of dried rice at the feet of those on the front row – his look as he meets your eye courts a response.
He plays an alcoholic theatre critic and columnist. His work comes easy to him, dashing off his reviews on the back of the programme before phoning them in so that he can get to the pub before closing time. The attraction for him is the power he wields rather than a love of theatre and it’s a power he abuses.
In fact, his reviews reflect a bile-filled belligerence towards the arts born out of a cocktail of self-loathing and frustration with his own lack of playwriting talent.
His marriage and home life have become a husk, his booze-soaked, nocturnal lifestyle has rotted the kernel of his relationships until one night, watching a performance of Salome dramatically alters the course of his life.
Infatuation and lies lead him to London and the home of beautiful, youthful vampires who desire blood and a consciousness.
They have power. Not the power to make you do what they want. But real power. To make you want what they want.
Part love story, part drunk story, part horror story, St Nicholas twists and challenges fantasy and reality exploring creativity, the nature and responsibility of power.
It’s a story of depression, loneliness, beauty, the ordinary and the extraordinary and how neither is quite what it seems.
Seductive and sad, it revulsed, chilled and gripped, I’m giving it *****.
St Nicholas is at the Donmar’s Dryden Street building until October 5, it then plays at the Dublin theatre festival for details go to the Donmar website and follow the links.
It’s two hours with an interval and is sold out but it’s worth trying for returns – there were four tickets available late afternoon for yesterday’s performance.