A Life

by Hugh Leonard

2 October – 27 October 2012

“I need to know what I amount to. Debit or credit, that much I am owed.”  

The first UK production in over 30 years

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★★★★★
Five Stars, The Public Reviews
★★★★ Four Stars, Whats On Stage
★★★★ Four Stars, One Stop Arts
★★★★
Four Stars, Exeunt Magazine
★★★★ Four Stars, Fringe Review
★★★★ Four Stars, Everything Theatre
★★★★ Four Stars, Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle

It’s reckoning time for Desmond Drumm, a scathingly witty and high-principled civil servant, living in small-town Ireland.

With six months to live, Drumm looks back on the triumphs and his tragedies of his life as he desperately tries to put his emotional accounts in order. The past and the present meet as Drumm, his simple and loving wife, and the one true love of his life, who rejected him for a lovable ne’er do well trace the evolution of his life. Isolated from the world by his “high principles,” Drumm comes to realise that perhaps he has never given his life or the people in it, a chance…

The character of Desmond Drumm first appeared as a small part in Hugh Leonard’s best known play Da which won the Tony Award for Best Play, the Drama Desk Award and the New York Critics’ Circle Award and played for697 performances on Broadway, and was later filmed, starring Martin Sheen and Barnard Hughes.

A Life won the Harvey Award for Best Play in Ireland and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play. It premiered at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, in 1979, starring Cyril Cusack, and was seen on Broadway and for a limited season at The Old Vic. It has been extensively revived in Ireland and the USA including recently in Chicago with John Mahoney as Drumm.

About The Playwright Hugh Leonard

Playwright Hugh Leonard, the pseudonym of John Keyes Byrne (1926-2009),  was one of Ireland's greatest contemporary dramatists. He wrote more than forty works for the stage including Da, Love in the Title, The Mask of Moriarty, The Lilly Lally Show, Moving, Kill, Time Was, Summer, The Patrick Pearse Motel, The Barracks, The Au Pair Man (nominated for Tony Award for Best Play), The Quick and the Dead, The Saints Go Cycling In, The Poker Session, Stephen D, and A Walk on the Water.  He wrote a vast number of dramas, comedies, classic serials and thrillers for television in Britain and Ireland including Parnell and the Englishwoman, Insurrection and original work for Armchair Theatre. His adaptations included Strumpet City, Good Behaviour and Silent Song which won the Prix Italia and a Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award.  His books included Fillums, A Wild People, Rover and Other Cats and the autobiographies Out After Dark and Home Before Night.  He was variously a columnist, screen writer and reviewer of books and theatre.

About The Director Eleanor Rhode

Director Eleanor Rhode is a former Resident Assistant Director at the Finborough Theatre where she has directed the London premiere of The Drawer Boy by Michael Healey, both sell-out runs of Generous by Michael Healey, The December Man (L’homme de décembre) for 2009’s Vibrant – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights, Barrow Hill for Vibrant – An Anniversary Festival of Finborough Playwrights in 2010 and Sihanoukville for Vibrant – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights in 2011, and the recent production of The Drawer Boy by Michael Healey. She was also Assistant Director on Trying and S-27. Eleanor graduated from Mountview in 2008. She went on to train at the National Theatre Studio in 2009 and is a former Staff Director at the National Theatre. Other directing includes The Gypsy Thread (National Theatre Studio), The Error of Their Ways (Cockpit Theatre), A Number (Camden People’s Theatre), This Lime Tree Bower (Edinburgh Festival), and staged readings of The Geese of Beverly Road (Theatre 503) and Photos of You Sleeping (Hampstead Theatre). As Associate Director, she has worked on the London transfer of Lie of The Land (Arcola Theatre). Eleanor is the Artistic Director of Snapdragon Productions.  

About Snapdragon Productions

Snapdragon Productions was formed by Eleanor Rhode and Sarah Loader in 2009, and became a limited company under the direction of Pelham Olive in January 2012. Previous productions have included the London Premiere of The Drawer Boy by Michael Healey, which was names Time Out's Critics' Choice, the European premiere of Michael Healey's Generous which enjoyed two sell-out runs at the Finborough Theatre and was named Time Out’s Critics’ Choice, the award-winning European premiere of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical Me and Juliet (Finborough Theatre), Anna Karenina (Arcola Theatre), and a co-production of the world premiere of Anders Lustgarten's A Day at the Racists(Finborough Theatre and the Broadway Theatre, Barking) which was nominated for the 2010 TMA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Regional Theatre and won the playwright the inaugural Harold Pinter Award for Playwriting.

The Press on Director Eleanor Rhode

On The Drawer Boy
Time Out Critics' Choice,
★★★★★ Five Stars, WhatsOnStage
★★★★ Four Stars, The Public Reviews, The Times, Time Out, Exeunt
 “Amusing, affecting and evocative... Satirical yet tender, this is a small delight.” Dominic Maxwell, The Times
“Rhode’s production delves into all the play’s many layers, drawing out the qualities that have made it a near-classic in its native Canada.” Zakia Uddin, Exeunt
The Drawer Boy...makes a powerful case for the necessity of art. It's one that's perfectly rendered here in Eleanor Rhode's lean and vital production.” Stewart Pringle, Time Out
“Skilfully directed by Eleanor Rhode, the actors truly shine in their roles.” Londonist
“This three-hander is delicately and sympathetically approached by director Eleanor Rhode, who skillfully draws out the humour within each relationship, and creates an immersive world which the audience can simply sink into.” Amy Stow, WhatsOnStage

On Generous –
Time Out Critics' Choice
★★★★ Four Stars Time Out, WhatsOnStage
“As good as anything you’ll find in the West End.” Robert Shore, Time Out
“Eleanor Rhode’s production is bright, sharp, swift and well-acted.” Michael Billington, The Guardian
“Slick direction by Eleanor Rhode" Paul Vale, The Stage
“Adeptly directed by Eleanor Rhode, Generous is engaging and genuinely thought-provoking throughout.” Kelly Ann Warden, WhatsOnStage
“Eleanor Rhode matches its seriocomic mood admirably, coaxing fine performances out of her cast.” Dominic Maxwell, The Times
“A high-quality production that zings along from first to last.” Timothy Ramsden, Reviewsgate
“Director Eleanor Rhode grasps these high-octane minds in a fast, explosive production…the acting’s undoubtedly fine throughout.” Timothy Ramsden, Reviewsgate

The Press on A Life

★★★★★ Five Stars, The Public Reviews
★★★★ Four Stars, Whats On Stage
★★★★ Four Stars, One Stop Arts
★★★★ Four Stars, Exeunt Magazine
★★★★ Four Stars, Fringe Review
★★★★ Four Stars, Everything Theatre
★★★★ Four Stars, Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle

"Eloquent, literate, witty and touching." Christian Science Monitor

"A marvellous, remarkable play." WCBS-TV

"Even better than its famous predecessor (Da): as human and funny, but richer in texture and even more cannily aware of the sad complexity of life" The Daily Telegraph

“At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Finborough have done it again with a stunning revival of this minor-key comic masterpiece.” Ian Foster, The Public Reviews

“Cheers once again to the Finborough for bringing us the real thing in theatre... A Life is a classic that is timeless and has been staged with such loving care.” Blanche Marvin, London Theatre Reviews

 “Hugh Leonard's lovely, spiky, very funny play, A Life.” Michael Coveney, WhatsOnStage

“Definitely not one to be missed.” Sarah Jeffcoate, One Stop Arts

“The Finborough Theatre maintains its reputation for unearthing forgotten gems…A funny and deeply moving account of one man's triumphs and regrets.” Robert Cumber, Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle Quotes on the writer and writing

“The play should not have been in British limbo for so long and this production will hopefully bring it to a wider public as it is a rich and entertaining experience.” Penny Flood, FulhamSW6

“A remarkable script with a knock-out central performance.” Everything Theatre

“Leonard is a first rate wordsmith whose sharp, witty and a poetic use of language makes for sparkling dialogue that bowls the action along.” Penny Flood, FulhamSW6

“Leonard’s insight into human weaknesses and strengths, the unpredictable crossovers of people and events are witty and painfully conceived. His superb ear for dialogue is beautifully served by this wonderful ensemble of actors.” Blanche Marvin, London Theatre Reviews

“Leonard's achievement is considerable, wringing all the drama out of a seemingly ordinary life without letting judgement or sentimentality creep in.” Robert Cumber, Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle

“The tiny theatre space in Earl’s Court punches above its weight once more, with Hugh Leonard’s moving, yet surprisingly rarely performed, tale of one man’s quest to settle his account with mankind.” Tom Taylor, Fringe Review

“This show makes you think about what is truly important in life. Intriguing and moving.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre

“Full of one-liners and gentle wit, the play is still serious and grounded, and compassionate even as it brutally exposes its central figure.” Alice Saville, Exeunt Magazine

Hugh Ross… “An altogether brilliant performance.” Sarah Jeffcoate, One Stop Arts

Hugh Ross…  “An utterly enthralling portrayal of an engagingly complex character.” Ian Foster, The Public Reviews

“It is rare to find a central performance as powerful as this one - in such an intimate space too. This is script-writing at its very best in a play which is sadly rarely seen. I urge you to see it while you can.” Everything Theatre

“Seeing Hugh Ross on stage is a truly unique experience. He manages to create a character who is not only multi-faceted and engaging but one who will stay with you long after you have left the theatre.” Everything Theatre

“Drumm (Hugh Ross) gives a fine, acerbic performance as a retired civil servant consumed by bitterness.” Alice Saville, Exeunt Magazine

“Beautifully rounded performances, who really make A Life as captivating as it is. Hugh Ross relishes the scathingly sharp humour of Drumm.” Ian Foster, The Public Reviews

“Amongst a sea of strong performances, Hugh Ross and David Walshe bring a genuine frustration and regret to Drumm's impossible restraint, while Mary Mallen is particularly iridescent as Mary, the young girl who wins both hearts.” Honour Bayes, Time Out

“An impressive cast, with the older quartet impressively capturing the weathered spirit of their younger selves.” Robert Cumber, Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle

“The acting is uniformly excellent, not least Hugh Ross and David Walshe as the Drumms young and old, and Neil McCaul as his feckless but well-meaning rival in love. “Nick Smurthwaite, The Stage

“David Walshe is outstanding as the young Desmond, hiding himself away from the world with his intellect and caustic humour.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre

“David Walshe is very convincing as the young Desmond and compliments his older counterpart perfectly.” Everything Theatre

“David Walshe and Mary Mallen, who play the younger versions of Drumm and Mary, had a wonderful onstage chemistry.” Sarah Jeffcoate, One Stop Arts

“Mary Mullen and David Walshe particularly good at tracing Mary and Drumm’s early relationship without overdoing behavioural parallels.” Ian Foster, The Public Reviews

“Gorgeously played by Mary Mallen.” Michael Coveney, WhatsOnStage

“A beautiful Mary Mallen plays the young Mary with suitable vivaciousness.” Everything Theatre

“Mary Mullen is exceptionally good as the young Mary (Mibs).” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre

“Neil McCaul brings great charm and comedy as Mary's roguish, wayward husband.” Everything Theatre

“Neil McCaul is warm and fuzzy as the amiable Lar.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre

“Portrayed with a wonderful comic streak by Neil McCaul.” Sarah Jeffcoate, One Stop Arts

“Kate Binchy is wonderful.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre

“Jenny Fennessy is lovely and serene as young Dolly (Dorothy).” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Reviews

“Coke is a pleasure to watch - A performance akin to sitting at a fire with a novel and a cocoa.“ Tom Taylor, Fringe Review

“Played delightfully by Judith Coke.” Sarah Jeffcoate, One Stop Arts

“Acted with a perfect blend of solicitousness and frivolity by Judith Coke.” Alice Saville, Exeunt Magazine

“Binchy creates a compelling, well-rounded character.” Everything Theatre

2 October – 27 October 2012

Tickets and Times

Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 3:00pm (from 13 October 2012)
7:30pm
Sunday 3:00pm

Approximately two and a half hours with one interval of fifteen minutes