Review: Pheromone, LipZinc Theatre

Exploring the world of male domestic abuse in 1950s Ireland, LipZinc Theatre’s Pheromone makes for an uncompromising watch

“So she has a few fantasies…so what? We all do”

Tzarini Meyler’s play Pheromone explores a world of male domestic abuse in 1950s Ireland with a refreshing, if uncompromising, straight bat. Much has been made of the opportunities that digital theatre and its technological advances offer now that it is actually something of a surprise to see a straight play mostly delivered in a traditional manner. It’s also a useful reminder that theatre can be just as effective when pared right back.

David’s a nice lad who lives with his mam. He wants nothing but to please her but he’s 36 now and his relationship with his mother Eva has warped into a disturbing codependency. In the blink of an eye, she’ll flip from worshipping him to loathing him, a master manipulator whose desperate fear of loneliness means she’ll do what it takes to put the kibosh on his plans of making a new life for himself with a girlfriend. 

LipZinc Theatre’s production, co-directed by Meyler with Kate Conboy-Fischer, really benefits from a clear vision. Ruairi MacMaoilir’s design sets the claustrophobic confines of this domestic prison but the period detailing, including Rory Meyler’s costuming, suggests the comfort of a cocoon or a nest. Bursts of music flesh out the world and the shifting internal relationships that come to a head when David brings Ruth home.

It’s a tricky story about a difficult subject, and one which is certainly thought-provoking. Probing into how pyschological and physical violence can be inflicted by those closest to us, the portrayal of that damage – and how it gets perpetuated – has a chillingly convincing feel to it as acted by Eoin O’Sullivan and Martina McCormack. If we’re left wanting to know a little more about the root of it all, then it is testament to the creation of some engaging characters.

 Pheromone is streaming via TakeYourSeats until 23rd May

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