There are only five people in the cast of Pat McCabe’s cracking adaptation of his 1995 novel, but with superb precision they populate the stage with countless characters.
Told in flashback, his comically tragic story of a pair of Dublin-based teachers, a generation apart, follows their lives from birth to (in one case) the grave.
Both had troubled childhoods – one father is murdered, the other commits suicide when his wife is flagrantly unfaithful.
But whilst Raphael (the older of the two) adopts a strict, authoritarian attitude, younger Malachy revels in the flare-trousered freedom of hash and premarital sex.
The paths of these representatives of old and new Ireland coalesce when Malachy (Nick Lee) takes up a teaching post at the same school where, in his heyday, Raphael’s old values triumphed – before sadness, disappointment and his unforgiving nature drove him to madness and conducting an imaginary class in his filthy, dilapidated living room.
Sean Campion, rising from the dead in a crumpled, chalk-impregnated suit, is outstanding as Raphael (a man who cannot move with the times and is destroyed by his own unyielding bitterness).
And the rest of the well-drilled cast (Carrie Crowley, Peter Daly and Gemma Reeves) are marvels of quick change versatility, popping up all over the place (as naughty pupils, wives, statues and the ominous Little Beggarman in a pig-face mask) in Padraic McIntyre’s super-slick production of this surreal kaleidoscope of a play.
Tricycle, Kilburn High Road, NW6 7JR Kilburn Tube (020 7328 1000) till 13th March (£10 – £20.00)