Ballyturk @ Tron Theatre

Andy Arnold's revival of Enda Walsh’s absurdist hit is lively, but its heavy existentialist dint lacks clarity.

Review by Ryan Hay | 16 Oct 2018

Andy Arnold’s Scottish premiere of Enda Walsh’s Ballyturk situates this contemporary Irish drama within a Scottish context, and seems to attempt to show us that it is about something wider-reaching than a wee Irish town. This is partly done through a design which gradually pokes holes in the naturalism of the ‘bedroom’ set, with beautiful projection from Nick Murray-Willis and Kim Beveridge, non-naturalistic sound design from Danny Krass, and a cleverly dynamic set from Michael Taylor.

One and Two have been living in a grotty one-room home for as long as they can remember, unheard by the outside world and unable to contact anybody else. To pass the time they invent the imaginary town of Ballyturk, and the whole host of characters that live there. They play daft improvisational storytelling games, drawing these characters and scenes from their lives. Though the dad-dancing of their morning routines feels over-egged, the central performances from Simon Donaldson and Grant O’Rourke show enormous technical skill in embodying the different people of Ballyturk, as well as their characters’ deep affection for one another.

One and Two find their games brought to a close when a death-like figure, Three (in a swaggering and smarmy performance from Wendy Seager), pays them a visit and offers an ultimatum - what happens to Ballyturk when one of them moves beyond the life they’ve been living there for so long? 

Pacing issues mean that moments of beauty in the script are lost despite strong acting, and the sudden shifts in tone to these existentialist monologues is jarring. On top of this, it really does feel at times like the play is flogging its central metaphor and existentialist ‘point’ into the audience with a big stick, perhaps because in this production the characters’ whole lives seem to be a stilted game.

Ballyturk, Tron Theatre, Glasgow until 20 Oct, £9-£17.