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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Heaven by Eugene O’Brien


Genre: Drama, New Writing

Venue: Traverse 2


Low Down

A middle-aged couple go to a wedding, but there’s so much more going on


Mairead (Janet Moran) and Mal (Andrew Bennet) are a 50-something Irish couple going to a wedding. They have been together for 2 decades or more, with Mal having very quickly identified Mairead as the type of woman he could marry. For Mairead’s part, she recognised that Mal was a decent man. They have been close friends ever since, a true partnership, having a daughter. But, scratch the surface and all is not entirely what it seems.

Mal had a heart scare, from which he came close to death, gave up alcohol and had a stent fitted. Mairead and Mal, it transpires have not been sexually intimate for more than 5 years. Mairead misreads this as middle age, whereas the truth is somewhat darker : Mal is quite obviously homosexual. He fantasised about Jesus as a choir boy and went so far as to have a homosexual encounter with a stranger in a hotel room, shortly before his wedding. Mairead may not have ever forgotten her former boyfriend, who will be at the wedding. As the wedding party progresses, Mairead begins to yearn for the type of physicality no longer offered by Mal and is tempted to proposition the former boyfriend. Mal, still grappling with catholic guilt, seems to be seeking some kind of religious epiphany and is tempted to break the habit of the last quarter of a century by taking drugs.

There was a full house for Heaven at Traverse 2, book-ended by the Talking Heads song of the same name. The play offers humans a tantalising glimpse into alternative possible lives led. The show is delivered in alternating, intersecting monologues, giving the audience the different perspectives on their relationship. At times their accounts converged, at others they differed and we were granted the opportunity to compare and contrast. Both actors are consummate story-tellers, delivering their monologues with charm and through the adept use of lighting (Zia Begin-Holly), the audience is drawn in. The direction (Jim Culleton) was sharp and despite the performers never directly being in close contact, their relationship was laid bare. The talented Fishamble ensemble bring Eugene O’Brien’s sharp script to life and the piece is highly recommended.