Love of family, partners and theatre itself are beautifully conveyed and deconstructed in Wildgoose Theatre’s adaptation of Gates of Gold.
Director Andy Love’s production of Frank McGuiness’s naturalistic play is a peaceful, tender examination of the beautiful, painful complexities of familial and romantic love under strain. The boundaries of devotion are tested in the handling of physical and mental prisons. It is also a love letter to the theatre in the form of an ode to the lives of Irish theatre founders Micheál MacLíammóir and Hilton Edwards.
As Gabriel (Richard Easterbrook) becomes fragile with age and illness, he and his partner Conrad (Paul Baxter) invite nurse Alma (Rosy Rowley) into their home to take care of him. Their small family dynamic shifts to absorb her, and her presence proves both necessary and trying. As Love himself states, “a laugh is never far away to punch a circle of light into the canopy of darkness.”
Gabriel and Conrad’s modern, minimalistic apartment is divided into Gabriel’s cold, clinical blue bedroom and a bright red lounge in which the able-bodied can reside without him. Gabriel’s domain holds a twilight feeling of otherwordliness and bears witness to some of the most touching, exposing dialogue of the play. The lounge, on the other hand, serves more as a battling ground for more spiky moments. Emily Denison’s portrait in shades of grey is a perfect gesture to that of MacLíammóir, which is said to hang in the home of McGuinness, completing a compassionate, metatheatrical circle.
Easterbrook brings his usual dignity to the role while conveying a vulnerable, loving, feisty soul. Rowley carries Alma’s lilting Irish tones and rousing songs beautifully. Kassie (Jeanette Hunter) and Ryan (Stu Freestone) provide a more self-centred, co-dependent branch of the family tree, although both have moments of tender connection with Gabriel and Conrad. Baxter’s Conrad is caring and compelling, and his final moments with Gabriel are utterly heartbreaking.
This moving family drama is a welcome return for Wildgoose Theatre, who produces little-known gems of heartfelt humanity.