A strangely lacklustre evening at The National Theatre watching The Veil, Conor McPherson's new offering. It was only the first preview, so perhaps it's unfair to judge too harshly, but that in comparison to the haunting beauty of previous work The Weir and The Seafarer, something felt amiss.
Set in a dilapidated country house in 1820s rural Ireland an uncertain future faces aristocrat Lady Lambroke and her family, haunted both by the rapidly radicalisation of the rural poor on her estate, and the ghost of her dead husband who hung himself by jumping off the mantelpiece in the grand hall. Debts and fears riddle the house and even the arrival of the defrocked Reverend Berkeley and the discredited laudanum addicted poet Charles Audelle, a strong double act from Jim Norton and Adrian Schiller, to escort Lady Lambroke's seventeen year old daughter Hannah to England, marriage and potential salvation, only provokes further problems as Berkeley attempts with some success to raise the ghosts of the past.
So a supernatural Chekhov? I'm not sure. Like Chekhov McPherson allows his characters lengthy monologues in which memories, speculations and mysteries are unearthed and the plot structure mirrors in conscious detail The Cherry Orchard. At times though it drags terribly with McPherson's own direction tending towards staged tableaux which stifles rather illuminates the dynamics of the play. The love of a good ghost story, so effective in McPherson's earlier work, seemed here to be wasted, clumsy and irrelevant compared to the background Catholic uprisings and Berkeley's discovery of Hegelian philosophy.
At the curtain call I couldn't help feeling that I'd rather missed the point. It's a long evening and at this stage seems to lack the hook to justify the meandering. I hope things are sorted out before the press night.