The Nest

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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This German morality play gets an Irish makeover – with original music by PJ Harvey

Every parent's worst nightmare comes true - or very close to it - in Conor McPherson's adaptation of this 1975 play from German playwright Franz Xaver Kroetz.

‘The Nest’ is an at first almost banal affair, that follows Irish couple Martha and Kurt through the late stages of pregnancy and first weeks of their son Stefan's life, as their relationship lightly buckles but essentially holds firm against the stresses of financial hardship and renegotiating their relationship with a new life on the scene.

But then in an effort to earn more money Kurt makes a terrible, terrible mistake.

'The Nest' is a slightly peculiar beast, ultra-naturalistic until a sudden, cruel change in Marta and Kurt's fortunes shifts it into something closer to an overtly contrived allegory for the ills of capitalism.   

McPherson's wry tone is enjoyable, and the bleaker sections whump you in the guts (I hate to do the ‘as a parent…’ thing, but as a parent I found it agonisingly on the money about the anger that comes from worry). But I'm not sure it meshes perfectly with Kroetz's morality play, and the ending feel coloured more by political earnestness than emotional wallop. 

Nonetheless, it is immaculately directed by Rickson, a deceptively gentle descent into claustrophobia and worse, as Marta and Kurt become consumed by anger, worry and unbearable guilt. Caoilfhionn Dunn and Laurence Kinlan are excellent at conveying the little tensions and insecurities that underpin any long term couple, and when the pain comes they shed their inhibitions magnificently. And there’s a beautifully dreamy score from PJ Harvey that feels like it does something to bridge the tonal gulf between playwright and adapter.

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