The Station Master

The Scotsman Aug 1974

by Nicholas Wapshott

Set in the Republic of Ireland, this new play by Neil Donnelly constructs the final day of a rural stationmaster before his premature retirement to relax on a farm. This peaceful scene, however, conceals a network of raw nerve endings for all those connected to him. The plot develops into an Irish Peyton Place, with every character linked inextricably with the next, from the affair between the stationmaster’s son and the new stationmaster’s wife, to the hatred between the station foreman and the new stationmaster.

The untangling of these strands is entertaining and holds the interest of the audience. Special credit must go to David Huscroft, who plays the retiring man, and who presented a convincing portrayal of an older man that did not falter throughout. Unfortunately, some of the other parts are either shallow, such as Any Cummins, the stationmaster’s son, who seemed to speak only in platitudes; or are non-existent, like the new stationmaster, who hardly says a word, although the centre of great controversy, and whose nonchalance at the final tragedy of the play was unnerving.

There were a few topical references to the North, something which must pervade every Irish conversation at least once during a day, but, thankfully, the politics ended there.

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