Cillian Murphy is always a mesmerising presence and never more so than in his latest offering as Thomas Magill in Enda Walsh’s Misterman. The Lyttleton stage is transformed by Jamie Vartan into a two-storey vast warehouse strewn with everything except the kitchen sink, but Murphy is undaunted by such a space and occupies it effortlessly from the word go. From the moment he first appeared I was totally transfixed, never sure where the play was going or how it would end, but convinced that whatever happened the journey would be well worth undertaking.
Enda Walsh directs his solo actor and the pace and tightness of the performance is testament to the fact that they’ve worked together before. It’s a masterclass in how to do physical, comedic, poetic and, ultimately tragic acting. Except that Cillian Murphy doesn’t act, he inhabits.
Thomas Magill is a humble man of God from Innisfree who believes that his mission in life is to save the various other inhabitants from a life of sin and evil. Fixated by his mammy who he periodically chats to before setting off into the village to buy her jammy dodgers, we realise from the start that all is not right in his world. But why the reel-to-reel tape recorders, barking dogs and demented toing and froing around the whole Lyttleton stage? Bit by bit these questions are answered but the whole devasting reason for Thomas’s (don’t you dare call him Tom) retreat into this hell hole is only disclosed at the very end of the play. Before that we see Murphy’s many layered character re-enacting a single day in his life when he chatted to fellow residents of Innisfree, whilst recording the conversations on a tape recorder and writing in his notebook. Except that when the words of the townsfolk are not re-played by him on the tape machines, Murphy effortlessly delivers them himself, switching hilariously and fluidly between characters.
As that fateful day begins to unfold we begin to understand that this friendly, if strange, fellow harbours a dark side. Whether this is inherent or caused by the cruel taunting of his fellow neighbours, we’re never sure. In fact Enda never actually let’s us know if the taunts are real or imaginary. All we do know is that in Murphy’s more than capable hands, the vulnerableThomas elicits our sympathy despite the devastating result of a fateful encounter with a beautiful girl, or angel. An earlier moment when he sits at his father’s graveside and childlike says, “I really miss you Daddy, but I’m doing my best with it” moved me to tears.
The creative team which includes Adam Silverman as the Lighting Designer and Gregory Clarke in charge of Sound, are brilliant, drawing everyone into the disturbed, lonely and ultimately sad world of a total outsider. No mean feat with such a technical production which has had to be choreographed to the nth degree.
When this off-beat, compelling, thought provoking and unique play ended, I was actually shaking with emotion. To my mind it is unmissable.