When the conclusion of a play feels inevitable from its outset—and is then realized—it’s worth asking what is gained from the journey in getting there. In the opening moments of Siren Theatre Co’s version of Misterman by Enda Walsh, the play’s lone character, Thomas Magill, destroys a tape machine to stop it from playing. At its end, we hear a recording of a woman teasing him, refusing to hold his hand – and then the sounds of him beating her into silence, killing her. What happens in between feels like the horrible, inexorable trajectory of a character obsessed with controlling reality. In fact, it’s all already happened.
This is because Misterman consists of a retrospective, highly-mediated monologue from Magill, pieced together from his pre-made recordings. With impeccable timing, Magill re-enacts previous conversations he’s had with the community of Innisfree in Ireland, thus revealing his fanatical Christianity – a puritanical worldview that no one can measure up to.
Thomas Campbell gives a peculiarly unrelatable performance as Magill, so to understand his violent actions is to in some sense concur with his values. Otherwise, we must put real empathetic energy into imagining his own suffering, which is only glancingly mentioned. Further to this, Magill sees Edel, the woman he eventually kills, as an angel – the force of his fantasy leaves no room for her true identity. She remains a cypher in the play, a woman killed only to demonstrate a man’s disturbed psyche.