a quirky look at London Life

Theatre Review: Portia Coughlan @ Old Red Lion Theatre, Islington

PORTIA COUGHLAN is a play set in Midlands Ireland about the eponymous heroine on her 30th birthday; tragic heroine or not – that is the question posed by this riveting and magical play.


The central casting of Susan Stanley as Portia was inspired – a blazingly convincing performance of an alcoholic and desperately unhappy young woman; hauntingly disturbed by a profound sadness based on the death of her twin brother in a drowning when they were adolescents.


There is wonderful ensemble support round this starring performance; Susan Cummins as Portia’s mother, Anne Kent as the horrible ,wheelchair-bound mother-in-law who effed and blinded with the best of them, Ben Mulhern as Portia’s (too) long suffering husband and an absolute whopper of a performance from Veronica Quilligan as the town prostitute.


A special mention for James Holmes playing Senchil Doorley, the modest, decent “little guy;” a guy who won’t leave his mark on the world; James Holmes stole the audience’s heart away with a diffident, understated, but stately performance.

But around him, the effing and blinding went on and fitted in well with the fact that everyone else on stage seemed to be smoking all the time and getting blind drunk. Mind you the craic was good in a savage way but so much for small town Ireland!

It is an Ireland which was well re-created (or to be kind, invented) in so many Irish plays of the 1990’s – protectively parochial, full of dark secrets and in this play darkly told.


In a series of flytes each character tells family member and friend what they really think of them in lyrical outburst upon lyrical and profane outburst of hatred and contempt and regret; so they rip each other apart. How did Joyce have it – “Ireland is an old sow that eats its farrow.” Indeed!


Nevertheless, a marvellous 2015 production of an Irish classic.


Shaun Traynor




Portia Coughlan 

Old Red Lion Theatre, Islington


28th April – 23rd May 2015

Tuesday – Saturday at 8.45pm

Saturday matinees 3.45pm

Sunday matinees 3.45pm



 Tickets £16.00 (£14.00 Conc.)


More details here:


Shelley Marsden talks to Susan Cummins:



See on Scoop.itLondon Life


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