The Ensemble scored a modest critical hit with its production of British writer Tom Wells’ The Kitchen Sink in 2017.
Folk, another domestic story set in Wells’ native East Yorkshire, isn’t nearly as good a play or production.
It’s Friday night and Sister Winnie (Genevieve Lemon) is on the Guinness, singing some of the old songs with Stephen (Gerard Carroll), a factory worker and guitar picker seeking respite from living with an ailing parent.
Then a brick comes crashing through the window.
The thrower of said brick turns out to be local lass Kayleigh (Libby Asciak). Her friend Jason, killed in a car crash a few days ago, was buried today. Winnie and Stephen’s jovial racket simply had to stop.
Nevertheless, the forgiving-natured Winnie invites Kayleigh inside and before too long, a tentative trio emerges, one Winnie hopes will feature in an Easter community folk night she’s planning.
But plans are made to be derailed in plays like this and each character has a secret of sufficient magnitude to do just that.
As in The Kitchen Sink, which had a fly-on-the-wall intensity to it, Wells demonstrates a fine grasp of the nuances of everyday speech and the stuff that goes unsaid.
But Folk feels generic by comparison, a warm but threadbare homily on the power of music to transcend generations and foster a sense of community in fractured times. It trades heavily on Irish music’s particular efficacy in generating warm and fuzzy feelings.
Under Terence O’Connell’s direction, Lemon attacks her role with a little too much gusto at times but the big-hearted, angina-stricken Winnie – a nun who smokes and drinks – is hard to dislike.
Carroll is a much quieter presence. Asciak provides contrasting youthful energy and sings well. Her accent wanders the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, however.
The songs (Holy Ground and Dirty Old Town among them) are attractively harmonised and played but they never quite shimmer as one imagines they should.