Sunday, June 7, 2020


St NIcholas by Conor McPherson. Directed by Shelly Higgs. The Street Theatre.  Live stream performances: Friday June 5 and Saturday June 6 at 8pm. Sunday June 7 at 3pm.

The on line theatre that is swamping us currently is no substitute for a real visceral bit of live theatre in the dark. I’ve found myself impatient with much of it and battling for staying power. It’s neither film nor a satisfactory recording.

But until the pandemic is over with its devastating effect on the theatres of the world it’s what we’ve got.

 The Street has offered three live stream performances of Conor McPherson’s St Nicholas and I caught the one on Saturday June 6. I’d been hoping to properly get to the opening but left my run too late to do the necessary organising for on line viewing. You can’t just rock up and collect your ticket.

But the management offer lots of homely and good suggestions for setting the mood at home. You can chat to others on line during the interval. Remember to switch off your phone; as in the theatre, it is a snare and a distraction.  Actually, given that St Nicholas is a vampire tale, snuggling up with a hot lemon and garlic drink under the blanket might not be a bad idea, although McPherson’s modern vampires seem unimpressed by garlic.

McPherson is the playwright who gave us The Weir, a dark and funny play which I remember seeing in the Theatre Royal in Sydney, complete with the intermittent noise of the underground train traffic. (Live theatre again…)

This one is a monologue, delivered by an ageing theatre critic who is somewhat over his current life reviewing in Dublin and rather over his current wife and family. He’s not too good in the ethics department either, happy to tell a director he’s written a rave review, then blaming editorial changes when the real piece appears in print.

But lying about the review brings him closer to meeting actress Helen, for whom he has developed a lust. She plays Salome but he can’t see beyond the dance. It’s a drawn out yarn as he falls in among vampires when he chucks in his old life in pursuit of her and moves to London. For a theatre critic he seems surprisingly unaware of being careful what you wish for. 

Craig Alexander revels in this fruity but flawed character. The support from musician Den Hanrahan’s shadowy presence is atmospheric. Production design is in the ever-capable hands of Imogen Keen, ensuring the right level of seediness backed by James Tighe’s selective and moody lighting.

What would it be like if Alexander could yarn to the whole of Street Two instead of just confiding ever so confidently in the camera? Well, it would be theatre. But no use wishing at the moment and here’s The Street, like so many others, doing a superbly inventive job with what it can and what it has.  It certainly ought to be causing some reflection on just why live performance is so deeply important.

Alanna Maclean