Review: Heaven by Eugene O'Brien

An overwhelmingly compassionate portrait of marriage by the Olivier Award-winning Fishamble

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Photo by Ste Murray
Published 05 Aug 2023

The white-hot desires of two people who’ve not lived life to the fullest bubble over in this electric new play from Eugene O'Brien.

Mairead (Janet Moran) and Mal (Andrew Bennett) are an Irish couple in their early 50s who have settled. There wasn’t much passion between the pair to begin with, but any that was there has long been extinguished. They married for the wrong reasons: Mairead wanted a quiet man after a string of wild affairs with charismatic drunks, while Mal saw married life as a way to put paid to the homosexual fantasies he’s had since his days as an altar-boy staring up at a shredded Jesus on the cross. They are happy, though: they’re best pals, proper partners. But one night, at a family wedding back in their dilapidated hometown, each carve out a night of heaven for themselves. 

The play is delivered as a pair of criss-crossing monologues, which makes perfect sense for a couple exploring carnal hungers they could never share. Mairead’s is the most vivid, ripe and lyrical and extremely horny, with Moran relishing her character’s vivacious wit. Bennett’s role is more tragi-comic. He has a lot of fun with Mal’s gay panic, particularly after he snorts up some Dutch courage at the wedding reception, although there’s a disappointing sense that O'Brien doesn’t quite take Mal’s yearnings as seriously as Mairead’s. She certainly has more dimensions; her character feels more lived in. Taken together, though, this is an overwhelmingly compassionate portrait of marriage, brimming over with wit and pathos.