Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Red Iron: New Jim Nolan Play at Garter Lane

Michael Quinlan and Brian Doherty

Anticipation was high in theatre circles at the prospect of a new play by the Waterford's  favourite playwright. Garter Lane was humming for the opening night. The Blackwater Gin was flowing, the mellifluous sound of the Barrack Street Concert Band installed in the Gallery threw a cheerful aural glow over the pre-show buzz as stage folk gathered to say hello and see a new play brought from page to stage. Best dressed among the gathering was the Mayor wearing his chain and office and Munster Express theatre critic, Liam Murphy in splendid red shirt and matching shoes. Memories were triggered of the glory days of Red Kettle when the Waterford company was at the forefront of the national theatre scene. Although the company ceased operations, Nolan has acquired the title and 'The Red Iron' was presented under the Red Kettle banner.

After a tragic funeral, a group of friends reunite after decades on the eponymous Red Iron, a bridge that now can only be approached from the 'enemy territory' of Co Kilkenny. The bridge is  a haunt of their younger days. It happens to be the day of the homecoming of a defeated Waterford hurling team and we hear a recording of the reception voices of a stoic manager Derek McGrath and entertainer Richie Hayes so effectively drawing us back to the emotional occasion on the Quay. I remember; I was there!

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The dialogue is peppered with references to sport and particularly  hurling. Hurling jerseys and bunting adorn the beams of Dermot Quinn's impressive set. Nolan adroitly draws the characters from the streets around Upper Yellow Rd with sharp detail of local streets,  GAA  teams and pubs. The redemptive power of music is  a familiar theme in Jim Nolan's plays and there is much reference to the characters' involvement in the Barrack Street Band who feature in the sound track. Nolan has a sharp ear for local humour and the comedy dialogue rang as  true as if overheard in Jordan's Bar. The characters  pick at scabs to reveal some painful memories that produces some powerful and poignant drama if a little convoluted at times as one  reveal rapidly follows another.

The cast, with one exception, are professional thespians drawn from  Waterford and its diaspora  who delivered very  credible characters.

The opening night audience loved it and the a standing ovation swiftly followed the final lights down.

Booking is heavy for the first week and  the play runs until November 30th.

Cathy's  review of Jim Nolan's Brighton play here
Cathy's review of Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye here 
The Red Iron Bridge from

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