BWW Review: THIRST (AND OTHER BITS OF FLANN) at The Abbey Theatre
A quintessentially Irish gem of a show
Imagine your absolute favorite story. Swap the protagonist for a bicycle-averse sergeant, an amiable but soused philosopher, a fellow tippler a few shillings short of a pound and a publican with a brain that should be pickled for posterity.
Scour the stage for 4 exceptional Irish actors to narrate the tale and then assemble them in the one location in Ireland where the finest stories are exchanged - a public house. Furnish them with one of Ireland's savviest wordsmiths and the result is unquestionably a treat.
Flann O'Brien's play Thirst is lyrical, witty and droll, and wonderfully lends itself to any medium. As well as stage productions Thirst has also been performed as a radio play and TV drama. The "other bits of Flan" are vignettes from his cherished books - The Dalkey Archive, Drink and Time in Dublin and The Trade.
A no-frills set features the hallowed bar on stage, the audience congregated pub-style around small tables and the actors sauntering amongst us.
I was delighted to recognize three of the extraordinary principals from the recent Abbey production of Richard III - Aaron Monaghan, Garrett Lombard, and Marty Rea joined by the outstanding Rory Nolan. Every performance was an artfully packaged masterclass as these consummate actors dug deep into their bags of tricks. Their accents were flawless and their nuanced performances sublime.
I couldn't agree more with the New York Times description of O'Brien in 1976: "Certainly there is no shortage of writers in Ireland, but there isn't anybody remotely like him." Just shy of an hour, this is a quintessentially Irish gem of a show. I will bet our Christmas pudding that no finer tale will you hear in Irish pubs this holiday season.