Friday, 26 September 2014

Review - Ballyturk, The National Theatre


SO what is Ballyturk all about then? Actually I have no idea. It could be a play, a comedy sketch or just a piece of physical theatre and as such it's a bit difficult to explain.
Written and directed by Enda Walsh and now on at the National’s Lyttelton stage, it consists of two characters, named or known as 1 and 2 who live in one windowless room adorned with just a few pieces of furniture, a shower in the corner and a cukoo clock.
Played by Cillian Murphy and Mikel Murfi the pair don’t stray out of the room at all. Instead they adhere to series of bizarre daily routines which consist of manically dressing and undressing each other, showering each other in talcum powder, racing around the room, playing darts, manically dancing and jigging about to pop music, pretending to be a range of funny and absurd characters from an imaginary Irish town of Ballyturk, talking about bunnies and leaping about the set with considerable athleticism.
Who they are is unclear - they could be on speed, they could be hermits, in some kind of institution, or the inhabitants of someone's mind.
About half way through just when I was thinking the piece was just going around in circles like a hamster on a wheel, the back wall slowly falls down and in walks Stephen Rea, nonchalantly smoking a cigarette.
It’s not clear who he is either but whatever and whoever he is, there is an awkward silence where they all sit down before Mikel Murfi makes tea and a brings in a Jenga-type tower of biscuits which inevitably collapses.
As 3 Stephen Rea breaks the routine and brings a certain amount of calm and sombreness to the proceedings. But once he has left they ramp up the absurdity of the situation resulting in Cillian Murphy’s character having a fit on the floor before the final exit.
It's shocking, mad, bonkers, energetic, frenetic, loud and absurd and there was so much energy exuded in this piece that it's exhausting.
And while I may not have understood much, if anything, about what was going on, it was an enjoyable 90 minutes nonetheless filled with both laugh out loud humour and poignancy.

Ballyturk is on at the Lyttelton, South Bank until October 11. Tickets cost from £15. Visit or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

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