The Rice Krispie Killer theatre review: shades of Enda Walsh in story of shut-in orphan brothers

Enda Walsh has led the way in the past couple of decades in writing Irish literary plays with subtle dynamics and mental health issues, wrapped up in a Pinteresque parcelling of strangeness, tension and cruelty. Writer Seán Basil Crawford has a veritable checklist of Enda Walshisms in this, his first play.

We have shut-in characters, we have ritualised storytelling, we have fellas in underpants/swimming trunks and we have a fear of the outside world. This is very familiar territory, but Crawford does a compelling job with these ingredients, and while we are not on new ground, the writing does have enough finesse to carry the day.

The other influence here is Martin McDonagh, with a fairytale storytelling element about a pair of Siamese twins who cannot live without each other, metaphorically reflecting the two brothers in the play.

Donnacha (Ross Gaynor) and Finbar (Crawford) are shut-in brothers who play video games all day and order grocery deliveries over the internet. They have lived like this for 18 years following the death of both their parents when Finbar was 12.

Finbar has some mental challenges; he has difficulties with words and can be literal and simplistic. Donnacha seems to be the dominant one, marshalling the household and making all the decisions. But the dynamic shifts over the 70 minutes of the play as Finbar begins to realise he has more power than he thought. The subject matter includes peer bullying and parental abuse.

Rex Ryan proves himself an astute director, eliciting fine performances, with plenty of playful detail in the shaping. A bombastic, domineering Gaynor contrasts nicely with a troubled and sensitive Crawford. Ryan doesn’t quite cure some cracks in the narrative logic however: it is hard to accept that the police didn’t investigate the parents’ death more thoroughly.

Hats off to the Glass Mask enterprise; we are not overburdened with new writing on Irish stages, and they are certainly presenting their wares with impressive verve and passion. And if Crawford’s debut play is overly dependent on his influences, it’s not a bad place to start, emerging from under the overcoats of Walsh and McDonagh.

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