Somewhere in the west of Ireland, a group of immigrants waits for something to happen. They are housed in a row of caravans, bored, and new to Ireland. They want to go to work, to fit in, but options are limited. After much reflection, a group of them decides to form a hurling team.
It’s not that simple, as the audience quickly learns, in Hurl, Charlie O’Neill’s contemporary Irish play about Ireland’s national sport, now onstage at Corrib Theatre. When the immigrant group’s leader Musa (James Dixon) and his pal Fatmata (Falynn Burton) approach the hurling league’s secretary, Rusty (Cynthia Shur Petts), about adding their new team to the league, they’re met with scorn and opposition. It’s the usual racist stuff. Musa and his team members don’t look Irish. They aren’t Irish. Hurling is an Irish sport.
A priest is called in to moderate. A drunken priest called Lofty (Clara-Liis Hillier). And the fun begins. Lofty takes on the thankless task of coaching the new hurlers and arguing with Rusty. Excitement explodes, along with skepticism, when the motley crew comes onto the field for their first match, and the tension, laughs, and surprises gain momentum through to the end.
Hurl is a story about the struggle for inclusivity, and depicts the country’s “seismic shift, moving from a homogenous to a diverse society…”, according to playwright O’Neill. While most of Ireland’s people are gracious and accepting of this change, he points out, “at a national and official level, Ireland has treated our immigrants unfairly, and in many cases…cruelly”.
Corrib Theatre’s mission is to engage, inspire, entertain, and challenge audiences with theatrical productions filtered through the Irish experience, with a focus on contemporary and lesser-known voices. While written for the Irish audience and first staged in 2003, Hurl addresses the hopes and fears of today’s millions of immigrants throughout the world as they leave bad situations in their own countries and are isolated and often persecuted in their new ones.
This lively, fast-moving play is directed by Tracy Cameron Francis. Match scenes are well-choreographed against a simple backdrop of astro-turf. It runs through October 28 at New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont Street, Portland.