It is almost impossible not to see W. Shakespeare’s footsteps in a play that is written by his young admirer. But Conor McPherson seems to have taken his admiration a step further in his new play “The Veil” in which he questions  infinity,death,freedom and our imprisonment in the present and inability to do anything about past and future, while showing us struggle of the true love in early 1800s of Ireland.

The black curtain with white flowery design at the bottom opens and we see grey, old, museum-like big house where Mr Fingal (Peter McDonald) and Mrs Goulding(Brid Brennan)  appear with a kerosene lamp in their hands both looking frustrated.They  soon start to  argue over a simple issue like muddy boots  which tells us about  deep and long term struggle of people in the estate. We soon learn from landlady Madeline(Fenella Woolgar) that they are expecting Reverend Berkeley(Jim Norton) from London who will be chaperoning her 16 years old daughter Hannah(Emily Taaffe) to  Northamptonshire where she will be marrying to Marquis of Newbury. Her arranged marriage is very crucial to everyone as it will rescue them from their deep debt of last a few years even though Hannah  doesn’t really want it.

Ursula Jones, Jim Norton, Emily Taaffe and Adrian Schiller in The Veil at the Lyttelton.

Just after submissive but at the same time angry looking Mr Fingal gets his love letter rejected by Madeline ,Berkeley in his 60s arrives with his friend Charles Audelle(Adrian Schiller) who constantly looks at things harder and deeper than others as he is a philosopher. From that point on Berkeley reveals all the dark and tragic history of the old estate and people who live there without knowing that he and his friend Audelle  are also part of the same tragedy as they are all prisoners of their time.

We learn from Berkeley that Hannah’s mentally unstable father Edward hung himself in the room where they sit and how she found him dead at the age of eight. Since then she has been hearing voices, seeing ghosts and talking to them to be able make sense of the past and know about future. Berkeley thinks that there is something inexplicable about the estate, it seems to trap people who live there and slowly prepares their tragic ends. Berkeley and Audelle plan to get all the ghosts and shadows manifest themselves thorough Hannah’s ability to communicate with them until her wedding in Northampton.

Berkeley and Audelle try hard to organise praying sessions to call ghosts and see what they will say to Hannah while every other character tells us their own stories with ghosts. Madeline, who seems to keep people in the real world throughout the play , also tells us how she saw ghosts when she was sixteen while Mrs Goulding believes that her son was taken away by a fairy woman just like another boy in Jamestown.

A brandy addict philosopher Audelle goes a step further and gives Hannah laudanum to be able to see the ghosts like she does. Their first call to ghosts ends with the collapse of Madeleine’s property in Jamestown which happens simultaneously with a small explosion like gunshot in the house.But no ghost appears. In the end of second call Hannah decides not to marry a man whose father tells us in a letter that he is not mentally stable. However that is not the reason why Hannah refuses to marry him. She believes that she will have a baby and lose her when she marries. In this call she sees a little girl that appears on the stage but only  Audelle and audiences see her.

Although play appears to be story of Hannah who can communicate with ghosts to interpret past and predict the future, it is in fact written to show how human beings are imprisoned in the present  which makes them believe in ghosts.On the other hand McPherson tries very hard to convince us that we have more freedom than any other creatures on earth even though we are trapped in the present which we can’t even grasp.

The stories we hear from all characters which are supposed to reinforce the main theme of the play becomes exaggeration as everything takes place in the same house,but only in words. We only see actions when Hannah sees ghosts which nobody sees and when Mr Fingal comes home with black eye, takes his rifle to challenge everybody and expose their dark secrets while expressing his love for Madeline in a way that fails to get sympathy from the audiences.

“I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either.” ,said an audience just on his way out which actually tells that the play as a whole fails to get audiences emotionally involved in the story.

However Conor McPherson is a very successful award winning play whose work includes; “The Seafarer” that is shown at National theatre and Broadway, “Shinning City” at Royal Court Theatre, Broadway, “Port Authority” at Gate Theatre, Atlantic Theatre in New York, “The Weir” at Royal Court Theatre, Broadway and won Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play. Mcpherson has won many other major awards like Irish Film and Television Academy Best Screenplay Awards, Award for Best European Film…


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