REVIEW: Crowman at Theatre Royal
IN our socially distanced world, it was wonderful to experience the courage and determination of everyone connected with the staging of ‘Crowman’ at the Mall.
Especially Jon Kenny because Jon Kenny is simply superb as Crowman – a man with a deep hatred of crows who shoos them away whenever they create a racket outside his sparsely furnished home. I wonder if the crows exist as often as Crowman hears them or is the racket that’s going on coming from deep inside his troubled consciousness.
Kenny’s Crowman is really Dan Lonergan – a character from an isolated yet modern rural countryside who shops in SuperValu for his meager table. As Dan reflects on his current isolated and lonely existence, Jon Kenny inhabits all the characters of his isolated townland and tells their stories with love and affection. And no small sense of empathy for his neighbours.
‘Being cruel to Dan would be like kicking a puppy.’
It’s hard to feel sympathy for Dan’s father who treats him with curt dismissal. “Why can’t you be like other boys?” demands his contemptuous father of the young child he blames for this older brother’s death in a farmyard accident. The accusations of “why didn’t you go with him” and “he’d have been alive if you’d gone with him” bellow in the young Dan’s ears all his lifelong. Now his febrile father is dead; a sudden heart-attack for a continuously angry man.
It’s a burden that Dan can never shirk from his lonely life. Staring at the wall, talking to pup, listening for the death notices on local radio and making notes. Dan never misses a funeral. Or the afters that provide him with some much appreciated treats. Still, the food isn’t everything. It’s the comfort of shaking another person’s hand and offering the ritual “sorry for your troubles” that brings human contact and communication.
Jon would love a friend and is willing to suffer the barbs of people like Rats Flanagan who belittles him at every opportunity in the pub. It’s Dan’s otherness that allows it. Since childhood, Dan has always appeared different or ‘other’ to his neighbours. His close connection to nature and his sympathy with all living things reveals a soul of enormous sympathy. Being cruel to Dan would be like kicking a puppy.
Dan never disparages his neighbours and has a kind word for each of them. However, when his childhood friend Shiela dies unexpectedly, a torrent of suppressed memories flood onto the stage. Shiela as a child, Shiela as a shoolyard confidante, Shiela who he danced with. Sweet Shiela who married John. Shiela who was too sick to live. Their song was Elvis’s ‘Are You Lonesome, tonight?’ And when Kenny sings it onstage, you could touch the sadness.
Ironically, redemption comes from Shiela’s husband John who befriends Dan and offers him forgiveness for not accompanying his brother Patrick on his final journey. “Shure you were only a child, Dan. What could you have done? Shiela really liked you, Dan. And she loved nature. Just like yourself. You were both very alike.”
Katie Holly’s script fills the stage with an array of characters that Jon Kenny brings to life with consummate skill and empathy. However, I never felt the otherness of Dan Lonergan. While other characters refer to Dan being different to other people, we never actually see the difference. What we see is an isolated and lonely soul who hasn’t a bad word to say about anyone.
Nevertheless, this is a superb performance from Jon Kenny who well deserved this standing ovation.