Empty Fanta bottles and a plethora of other miscellaneous objects dot a garage like home. A classy 40s jazz tune toots from a 6” by 6” stereo. A scruffy bearded, long haired man struggles to stop the music via hammers, kicking and battery removal. All in vain, as each attempt causes a crescendo in the music (and in his resentment). So begins Misterman at Galway’s annual Art Festival, the tale of the Irish Catholic bigot called Thomas Magill who attempts to save the world from itself.
Scribbling notes like “Jimmy dirty language”, Thomas goes through the town attempting to be a good Catholic and searching for the way to heaven. While his intentions are good (always bringing biscuits for “Mammy”), it doesn’t stop him from beating to death a dog named Roger who always bites at his shoe. Tape-decks littered throughout the stage represent the whirring of a mind diseased and tortured by guilt, insecurity and madness.
Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow in Batman Begins
Cillian Murphy stars as Thomas in this one man show where he acts as every character including a town hick and a seductive waitress. As Batman’s Scarecrow, he exploited the phobias of his adversaries with drugs and a burlap sack, and as Thomas, he does the same without the props.
Since the show is told from Thomas’s perspective, you are aware of the bias you have with Thomas and have to decipher whether a particular event is happening in his head vs it being real or whether someone is actually being terrible vs Thomas in his extreme ways thinks so. The audience is forced to contemplate who is worse, Thomas with his extremism or the town with theirs, who instigated who, what is it that Thomas is looking for, is Thomas weak or brave, is the play funny or dark, and when all is said and done, do you sympathize with Thomas or are you disgusted with his actions (or can you feel both?).
In my brief 5 weeks in Ireland, Thomas represented for me the power religion had over the soul and who or, in this case, who not you could keep company with. It illustrated to me how sad it was that Protestants and Catholics couldn’t be united in Northern Ireland and still rioted at times like July 12th. This conflict isn’t due to religious differences as I’ve mentioned before, but any different ideologies the two groups now have are outdated. In other words, there shouldn’t be a problem except they are so use to hating each other…they continue to hate each other (mind you this is only Northern Ireland and even there only in certain places).
Cillian Murphy as Thomas Magill talking to “Mammy”
As Matthew Harrison put it, “this production of Misterman is a celebration of technical skill, luscious writing, extravagant acting and high production values. What are Arts Festivals good for? Finding ways to match-make an interesting script to a fine actor, aided by virtuosic technical crew. A summer blockbuster is born. It happens here.”