The Execution of Paddy Flynn, Vaults Festival

This is a new play from Kieran O’Rourke, his last play at The Vaults The Many Crimes of Hector Cartwright in 2017 was an interesting though flawed post-war thriller, with too many characters and uninspired set design

The Execution of Paddy Flynn is more streamline with the focus on a group of four and keeping the production in the small betting shop works better in these small fringe spaces. Paddy Flynn finds himself tied up and at the mercy of George Mooney, a woman in a man’s world protecting her niece Annie. Paddy has one job to throw a horse race so Mooney doesn’t go broke. There is more to this Irish jockey than meets the eye.

Set in 1920s Sheffield it is a nice period piece about what people did to survive. There is great attention to detail not only to Sheffield but the dialect of the time. It is also nice to see a woman at the helm, taking over from her brother after his murder by a rival. Eliza McClelland gives the performance of the night, it is clear O’Rourke has considered this character’s feminine traits. As the aunt of Annie (Lizzie Frain) she has a maternal streak but she is also not afraid to brandish a gun and show she is better than all the men out there, even if age and her gender aren’t on her side. She gives this Coronation Street Matriarch vibe and her forgiveness and trust in Gearoid Kavanagh as Paddy makes more sense as a woman who is capable of warmth and kindness than a man trying to save face to his rivals and community.

There is are still the issues that plagued Hector Cartwright. The characters are much better written but there is are still weaknesses in supporting characters who should drive the story as much as the lead. Frain’s Annie and James Barbour’s Mickey feel underdeveloped and merely vehicles to push Mooney and Flynn’s cat and mouse game. The play works best when Kavanagh as the charismatic Paddy manages to charm McClelland’s George into a new scenario to gain her trust.
This is a strong work, a lot of the concerns from Hector Cartwright have been improved. Frain and Barbour work well with what they have, McClelland works well with all the characters and is incredibly convincing and Kavanaugh is convincing as the gipsy jockey, looking to make a quick buck and stay alive.  O’Rourke is a writer to look out for and he seems to have found his niche in period thrillers.

The Execution of Paddy Flynn was on at The Vaults Festival until 17 March

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