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Previewed 7 May 2005, Opened 25 May 2005, Closed 13 August 2005 at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London
A major production of Brian Friel's new play The Home Place starring Tom Courteney and directed by Adrian Noble.
Brian Friel's new play is set in the summer of 1878 where the widowed Christopher Gore, his son David and the woman they are both in love with, their housekeeper Margaret, live in The Lodge in Ballybeg, County Donegal. But in this era of unrest at the dawn of Home Rule, the seemingly serene life enjoyed at The Lodge is threatened by the arrival of Christopher's English cousin, who unwittingly ignites deep animosity among the villagers of Ballybeg.
"The Home Place is beautiful" The Financial Times
The cast for The Home Place in London includes Tom Courtenay as 'Christopher Gore', Hugh O'Connor as his son, 'David Gore', Derbhle Crotty as their housekeeper, 'Margaret O'Donnell' and Nick Dunning as Christopher's cousin, 'Dr Richard Gore' along with Laura Jane Laughlin and Adam Fergus. Directed by Adrian Noble with designs by Peter McKintosh and lighting by Mark Henderson. This production comes to London's West End following a direct from a sell-out season at the Gate Theatre, Dublin.
"A wonderful new play, rich in wisdom, and peopled with distinctive, entirely believable characters. The Home Place is a jewel" The Irish Times
"Brian Friel has crafted a new historical drama laced with many echoes of Anton Chekhov... Tom Courtenay's Christopher Gore.. This is a really superb performance by Courtenay. At first you think his slow, sing-song way of speaking is going to become an irritating mannerism. But it is actually intriguing, conveying gentleness and even weakness and subtly suggesting assumed superiority - as if everyone he addresses is half-deaf or slightly simple. His collapse into despair and near-madness is, in turn, charted very swiftly but entirely convincingly... The Home Place is a fascinating study of Victorian racism and definitions of national identity, and Friel is a really fine, mature writer combining the history of ideas and politics with passion and great humanity. Recommended." The Independent on Sunday
"Brian Friel has written a thoughtful and intricate new play. It's not the most powerful of his 50-year-long career, but it's an intriguing contribution to his exploration of Irish history, a portrait of the people he thinks of as the country's possessors and its dispossessed. His intricacies are shot to pieces by an unnatural central performance from Tom Courtenay... Derbhle Crotty and Laura Jane Laughlin - women who keep curtains soaking in pails and men on the boil - give nicely inflected performances. But Tom Courtenay, the man on whom the play depends, can't lose his temper without behaving like a battery-powered toy... He is the moral centre of a serious play and he makes it look ludicrous." The Observer
"The writing is, as you might expect from the author of Dancing at Lughnasa and Translations, often gorgeous; the set luminous; and the acting - bar an over-mannered, if moving, Tom Courtenay - admirable. Yet Brian Friel's new play, The Home Place ultimately disappoints. Though it flickers, beautifully, with tenderness and generosity of spirit, its plot line feels research-driven, shoehorned into dramatic use rather than organically derived, and its melancholy more striving for Chekhov than Chekhovian in accomplishment. Still, there's much to savour in a play whose action is defined by an offstage murder... and the play is bedizened, with glorious episodes... Yet, within a flawed evening there is writing of a class rarely experienced in the theatre." The Sunday Telegraph
The Home Place is set in Donegal at the outbreak of the Land War, sparked off by deep agricultural depression and fears of renewed famine. There was a grim and steely determination by the people to hold on to their homesteads and advance towards governing themselves. Michael Davitt of the Land League, John Devoy, representing the Fenians in an Irish-America that was becoming a formidable ally in support of Ireland's freedom, and Charles Stewart Parnell came together in the 'New Departure' of 1878, behind a programme of radical land reform and unfettered self-government. The driving force of this combination marked the beginning of the end for landlordism in Ireland. The Home Place takes us into the world of the 'big house' in Donegal, where the local landlord Christopher Gore enjoys the services of staff in the house and on the estate, and is largely insulated from much harsher conditions surrounding him although those who work for him have outside connections.
While not immediately obvious, The Home Place also recalls in its rural Irish domesticity, the huge influence of Charles Darwin on 19th century thought. Nineteen years before the setting of The Home Place, Darwin published his book "On the origin of species" following which 'Darwinism' was explored and speculated upon by many intellectuals, notably Darwin's cousin Francis Galton. In essence Galton postulated that natural selection acted on groups within the human population, favouring the breeding and success of certain races, nationalities, social classes and even families. His ideas were the talk of the great houses of England and Ireland and they gained credence, without any good evidence, across the Western world... Genetic imperialism was strong at the time of Friel's play, and he brings attention to a remarkable and perhaps little known episode in Irish science. In 1880, A.C. Haddon (1855-1940) a Cambridge graduate, two years after graduation, was appointed as Professor of Zoology at the Royal College of Sciences in Dublin and as Assistant Naturalist to the Science and Art Museum in Dublin. He worked at the Dublin Anthropometric Laboratory. A follower of Galton, he became interested in distinguishing races and subraces by measuring the shapes of skulls (craniology), and in relating these physical qualities to behaviour. Today he is referred to as a founder of 20th century physical anthropology.
The Home Place in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre previewed from 7 May 2005, opened on 25 May 2005 and closed on 13 August 2005.