Review – Sunday Business Post

**** ‘hilarious, surreal … marvellous to behold’.

Nadine O’Regan writes a four start review of Ballyturk for the Sunday Business Post 20.07.14.
Click here to see the full review.

The Act of Cillian – RTE Guide

Donal O’Donoghue interviews Cillian Murphy for the RTE Guide. Click here to read the full interview.

 

Review – Arena

Sophie Gorman joins Sean Rocks to review Ballyturk  on Arena. 16.07.14

You can listen in here.

Enda Walsh and Cillian Murphy on Arena

Enda Walsh and Cillian Murphy join Sean Rocks on Arena on Monday 14th July on the opening night of Ballyturk at the Black Box Theatre in Galway.

You can listen in here.

Review – Irish Independent

‘heartbreakingly tender … riotously funny …. a remarkable achievement’.

Sophie Gorman reviews Ballyturk for the Irish Independent on 16.07.14.
Click here to read the full review.

Review – The Irish Times

**** Cillian Murphy ‘underlines his character’s restless spirit with manic eyes and a multi-octave voice’, while Mikel Murfi depicts ‘gormlessness with spry physical genius’, in Ballyturk.

Ballyturk, a place that may or may not exist, still seems strangely familiar. We are in a huge sealed room, a sparse industrial space of light greys and rust browns, designed by Jamie Vartan, where two men frantically fill the time in daily routines, 1980s pop songs and hyperkinetic story telling.

In a madcap soap opera, they select characters from a gallery with the throw of a dart, split eccentric role play and grandiloquent narration between them, and furiously inscribe some sort of reality, out of nothing. In short, they are trapped, exhilaratingly and unnervingly, in an endless Enda Walsh play.

The two nameless character, a reedy Cillian Murphy, who underlines his character’s restless spirit with manic eyes and a multi-octave voice, and Mikel Murfi’s older protector, depicting gormlessness with spry physical genius, are hardly aware of that – they have been entombed here for a long time. But, as writer and director of Landmark and GIAF’s production, Walsh scatters arch self-references through their world: jumbled props, small-town meditations, co-dependent character dynamics and surreal set pieces that recall his entire oeuvre, and all the snack foods familiar from his junk-culture absurdism. He even performs a very discreet cameo role.

That might sound like self-parody, but Walsh seems intent on ushering his stagecraft towards a more profound seriousness, something underlined with the visceral portent of Teho Teardo’s solemn music and the arrival, by means of a coup de théâtre, of Stephen Rea.

Rea’s figure, urbane and quietly commanding, may strike you either as a god or a reaper – “I’m a collector,” he tells the nonplussed pair. “That’s why I’m here.” – but he most resembles a playwright; he calls the shots. Perhaps that’s why Walsh’s conscience seems to gets tangled up, relishing the poetic fumblings of the players, but constructing lengthy monologues for Rea with no particular function or voice. It’s strangely anti-climactic, as though Godot had shown up.

The dilemma Rea offers, though, shadows the play’s fundamental concern: that there is more to existence than we can comprehend. “I thought we knew everything there was to know,” says Murphy, shaken to his core by the discovery of a new creature – a fly. “It feels like we may be less of what we were in a place we don’t wholly know.” But while Murphy yearns for freedom, in sleep, in dreams, in distended memories, Murfi is in love with the prison, the sustaining rituals, the finitudes of known space.

Even in the self-reflexive theatre of Walsh, there’s something fresh in layering the play with metaphors for life and death. Like Murphy’s childishly drawn map of Ballyturk, plays are also bound by limits, strict and quantifiable, while seeking to describe something much greater. Ballyturk is dark and giddily disturbing, not because it constructs a place, or a prison, but because it is provides a springboard, propelling us into the unknown.

Until Jul 27, then tours to Olympia Theatre, Dublin Aug 7-23, Cork Opera House, Aug 26-30 and the National Theatre, London Sep 11-Oct 11

Written by Peter Crawley in The Irish Times 15.07.14

Review – Irish Examiner

****

Boasting stellar performances from Cillian Murphy, Stephen Rea and Mikel Murfi, Enda Walsh’s new play, Ballyturk, which he also directs, is another fine collaboration with Landmark Productions and Galway Arts Festival, with whom he enjoyed success with Misterman in 2012.

The play revisits familiar Walsh terrain: characters stave off trauma and isolation through the dynamic power of words. In Ballyturk, two nameless brothers (Murphy and Murfi), confined mysteriously to a small room, take solace in inventing a mundane Irish village. They act out the lives of the fictional town’s inhabitants. Yet Murphy’s melancholic character is haunted by a sense of the world outside.

When Rea’s character suddenly — and brilliantly — enters the fold, a way out emerges. But it’s not the freedom for which Murphy’s nervy soul has longed.

As ever with Walsh, Ballyturk is easy on the ears. Where Samuel Beckett’s gift was to pare away ruthlessly at language, Walsh conjures a Beckettian world but, by contrast, pumps it with linguistic poesy. These impeccable actors feast on the mighty spiel. But it’s not just Walsh’s dialogue that hits the spot. There is a riotous, rococo energy to the visuals and the sound design: for example, when Murphy launches high-heel shoes into the air, or Rea breaks into crooner mode. It’s delirious and captivating.

But the play stumbles thematically. Walsh has long been querying the way people construct their worlds, but the blend of pathos and enigma here — enticing as it is — is too portentous, without ever having much to say. Nevertheless, this is thrilling theatre, visceral and cerebral, hilarious and sad. And its bold, ominous final scene will live long in the memory.

Written by Padraic Killeen in the Irish Examiner 16.07.14

Review – The Galway Advertiser

“BEAUTIFUL, HILARIOUS, dark as death.” So tweeted actress Olwen Fouéré after seeing the opening of Enda Walsh’s new play Ballyturk, which got the Galway International Arts Festival off to a flying start at the Black Box yesterday evening.

Fouéré aptly summed up this stunning offering from Landmark Productions and the GIAF. The play centres on two nameless housemates played by Mikel Murfi and Cillian Murphy and we watch their frenetic daily routines which encompass everything from uproariously funny knockabout dancing to 1980s pop songs to their energetic evocations and impressions of the many inhabitants of the village of Ballyturk.

Murfi’s genius for physical comedy and expressiveness is given full rein under Enda Walsh’s skilful direction and Cillian Murphy is equally brilliant as he runs the gamut from manic non-stop activity to moments of pained bewilderment.

Ballyturk at times recalls Walsh’s The Walworth Farce which also featured characters shut off from the outside world and who devise stories to make sense of their existence. Every now and again Murphy’s character grasps for some meaning outside of the tales of Ballyturk – a place which might only exist in his and Murfi’s imagination – and his quest for knowledge and identity is very affecting. What is also affecting is the very real and deep affection which exists between these two men.

Then Stephen Rea arrives on the scene – laconic, enigmatic, droll and sinister – his appearance has a momentous bearing on Murphy and Murfi’s existence. The scene where a microphone drops from the ceiling and Rea suavely takes it and croons a love song is worth the price of admission on its own.

Walsh packs a heck of a lot into Ballyturk – madcap comedy alongside meditations on identity; imagination; love; life and death – and he and his three superb actors carry it off with immense flair. Praise is also due to the contributions of designer Jamie Vartan, lighting designer Adam Silverman, sound designer Helen Atkinson, and composer Teho Teardo. Bravos and bouquets to one and all.

Written by Charlie McBride in the Galway Advertiser 15.07.14

Ballyturk – Director and Cast Interviews

Galway International Arts Festival’s Festival TV sat down with Ballyturk writer and director Enda Walsh, and cast members Cillian Murphy, Mikel Murfi and Stephen Rea.

Welcome to Ballyturk: darkness, stress and a joker in the pack – The Irish Times

Enda Walsh’s intense new play brings together an all-star cast of Cillian Murphy, Stephen Rea and Mikel Murfi. Are they looking forward to being put under ‘tremendous strain’ by Walsh?

A new play by Enda Walsh is bound to cause a stir on the Irish arts scene. The play, which stars Stephen ReaCillian Murphy and Mikel Murfi, is an exciting prospect. And a new play by Walsh whose run at this summer’s Galway International Arts Festival sold out before the festival programme was even launched, well, that’s a bit of a phenomenon.

So it is intriguing, to say the least, to be sitting at a table with Walsh and the cast of Ballyturk, who have taken a break after two weeks of rehearsal in London to do some publicity in Dublin.

It’s quite a quartet. The Sligo-born actor Mikel Murfi is touring Ireland with the one-man show he wrote himself,The Man in the Woman’s Shoes. Cillian Murphy’s movie career has taken him into serious A-list territory: Inception,Batman Begins28 Days Later and The Wind that Shakes the Barley as well as a fistful of award-winning independent roles. Walsh, who won a Tony Award for his book for the musical Once, is making major waves in the international theatrical world.

Then there’s Stephen Rea, who you might have heard of. The founder member, with Brian Friel, of Field Day has been collaborating with the American playwright and director Sam Shepard on a regular basis. He worked with another Sam – Beckett – on Endgame. As for his movie credentials, how about The Crying GameThe Butcher Boy,The Company of WolvesThe Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,The End of the Affair – and that’s just the movies beginning with “The”.

Two years ago, Cillian Murphy’s performance in Walsh’s one-man play Misterman was a sensation at Galway Arts Festival. It won him an Irish Times award for best actor, as well as a Drama Desk Award when the play transferred to St Ann’s Warehouse in New York.

“It was one of the most fulfilling and satisfying times I’ve ever had,” says Murphy, who has just finished shooting the second series of the BBC drama Peaky Blinders – and has the haircut to prove it. “I’ve always loved theatre and I’ll always come back to it.”

Character studies

Misterman required Murphy to portray, not just the obsessive, unhinged Thomas Magill, but all the other characters he encountered – from a flirty waitress to a foul-mouthed garage man – as he went about his work of trying to convert the townspeople of Inishfree to God.

Working on Ballyturk as part of a trio must be very different? “It’s totally different. Every show is always different,” he says. “It’s nice to be sharing a stage with two brilliant actors. That’s always a nice thing.”

“Hmph,” offers Rea from stage left. “You’ll need to hire a couple.”

With its inch-perfect timing and delivery, the comment offers an intriguing hint as to how rehearsals for Ballyturk might be shaping up. What can Rea tell us about the character he plays in the piece?

“Well, my character is different to the others,” he begins. “I mean, these two guys are fantastic. There’s an incredible explosion occurring all the time. When I read the play first, I couldn’t see how a third person could enter, but he does, and it made total sense.”

Another first go for Rea

Not having worked with Walsh before, was it a role that attracted Rea immediately? “It took a while to say yes,” he says, “only because I was doing another play and my head was opening – you know – as it does when you’re doing plays. So it took me a while.

“I’ve been lucky enough to get first go at some plays, likeTranslations. Friel sent me the first act of that, and you just go, ‘Wow’. Then Sebastian Barry sent me Ballycumber, Frank McGuinness, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me. You just know. There’s a particular tone that a play has, that’s itself and nothing else; and you know that unless the writer has a nervous breakdown by page five, this is going to be great. And I felt that with this play.

“But I’ve known Edna . . .” Pause. “I’ve known Enda . . . ” Longer pause.

“Do you know, I had to do a reading the other day. It was talking about Patrick Pearse and on the page it said ‘St Edna’s’.”

Instead of St Enda’s, the school where Pearse taught?

On the other side of the table, Walsh, Murphy and Murfi are rolling around with laughter; clearly, for today at least, Rea has taken the role of joker in the pack. Although you would never guess it to look at him: his face is the picture of gloom as he continues, lugubriously, with his story. “I said, ‘F***, you’ve landed me in it, anyway.’ ”

In an effort to restore some sort of order, I lob a question at Murfi about how Ballyturk connects up with his work on other Walsh plays, since he directed Penelope and The Walworth Farce and was movement director on Misterman.

“Initially I was asked would I fight- direct on Misterman,” he says, “which I thought was hilarious, because how do you fight-direct on a one-man show? But there were places where Cillian had encounters with dogs or was beaten up, so we had to imagine the other half of those.

“To be fair, I did very little because Cillian was so in the groove. There were certain things that I troubleshot in terms of health and safety – just to make sure that the items that he was going to crash into, handle, touch, jump on and all that sort of stuff, would be okay.

“Enda’s plays tend to have sequences which are precision-written in terms of the actions and where they go. With The Walworth Farce, it was really full-on. I couldn’t understand how Enda had written it in his head; I thought he must have had a little model set and moved the people around to track where they were at any particular time. It was extremely complex.

“There are sequences in Ballyturk that have the same kind of energy requirement. It’s pretty intense in terms of what’s required of you physically, but you realise, actually, that there’s all this physical activity for myself and Cillian, and then there’s this mental, psychological journey that gets thrown in there, which makes it even more of a challenge.”

A journey towards death, according to the few clues that Walsh has given to the content of the play. It was inspired, he says, by a pertinent question from his six-year- old daughter. “So,” she said. “People die?”

Murphy’s psyche

What is it in Cillian Murphy’s psyche that brings him to Galway in the summertime to pursue first the madness that was Misterman and now the darkness that is – or may be –Ballyturk?

“I don’t necessarily seek out gloomy themes or topics,” he says. “I just really like Enda’s plays. I try to follow good writing, wherever it takes me. I think as actors we’re all amateur psychologists. We love observing people. And what Enda does is put these characters under tremendous strain.

“I’m fascinated by what that does to the human psyche – that sense of stress and pressure. It’s very interesting to me and it’s very interesting dramatically. That’s the kind of art that I’m interested in, in novels and films. Not necessarily where everything is going well. A good man’s life is not necessarily a very interesting life.”

The Ballyturk four nod in agreement and the rest is silence. They’re not giving anything else away, but I’d be willing to bet that Ballyturk will be very interesting indeed.

Ballyturk is a co-production between Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival. All shows for Galway have sold out, but the play will tour to the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, August 7-23 and Cork Opera House August 26-30, before moving to the National Theatre, London, in September

Written by Arminta Wallace in The Irish Times 01.07.14