Finborough Theatre, London
★★★★ (out of 5)
FRESH from beating 500 other entries to take this year’s Papatango New Writing Prize, Co. Kerry playwright Fiona Doyle finds herself in good company as she debuts her first full-length production at Finborough Theatre.
The 50-seat shoebox venue, above a pub in London’s Kensington and Chelsea, has in the past premiered works including Conor McPherson’s This Lime Tree Bower and Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman.
Finborough boasts that in the past 25 years, it hasn’t presented a work that has been seen before in London.
And while Coolatully – an emigration tale set in present day rural Ireland – may be a new play, the story is one many Irish people will be familiar with.
The drama centres on Kilian (played by Kerr Logan), a prematurely retired hurling star torn between sticking with his economically-ravaged village or twisting on a new life in Australia.
Emigration may seem like a no brainer for the 27-year-old, who, when not collecting
the dole, works shifts in an empty pub.
His girlfriend Eilish (Yolanda Kettle), a nurse, is also set to leave for a new life promising work opportunities and festive barbeques on Australia’s Gold Coast.
But Kilian’s sick mother, along with brother Seamus’ recent suicide, haunts the lead character.
Further trouble comes after the re-emergence from prison of Kilian’s friend Paudie (Charlie de Bromhead).
Under extreme stress, self-inflicted moments of madness – born no doubt from the aimlessness of being a member of the ‘lost generation’ – threaten Kilian’s chance to leave.
It’s this tension that keeps the action flowing.
Attention only drifts once or twice in the 95 minutes, with no break, in what is bold and strong writing from Doyle.
The measured story is aided by polished turns from all cast members.
Kerr Logan, who recently played the extrovert as Conor in Channel 4’s London Irish, gives a considered performance.
Meanwhile wise old boy Jimmy (expertly played by Eric Richard) is a member of the previous wave of migrants who came to build the roads of Britain.
He’s on hand to give a cross-generational perspective.
There seems to be a real buzz building around Coolatully.
Based on seeing the show, early comparisons of another show which debuted above a pub in London back in 1997 – McPherson’s The Weir – may not be a million miles off.
Coolatully runs at Finborough Theatre, London until Saturday November 22.
Tickets from £12-18 from 0844 847 1652.