This Lime Tree Bower speaks to me about the importance of storytelling. In the course of the narrative, Joe brings up the story of the sunken boat off the shore, and how it has some sordid history involving the IRA, love, and gun trafficking… Or maybe it was that old fisherman, who sank it while he was drunk. Frank mentions never tiring of his father’s stories that just keep getting more and more exaggerated. This Lime Tree Bower lets its characters tell their stories, to the audience and to each other, and who knows what new details are added in each retelling. To me, that is the point of the drama, to remind us that these are our stories, that they are important to tell, and that there is always something new to be learned.
Working with this text is a challenge because it is not written as a traditional drama. Why did McPherson choose to have his characters tell the story rather than live it onstage? This is a question I’ve struggled with during this process, but I think it has to do with the fact that these three men are inexorably changed by the events they recount, and, more importantly, by the retelling. Joe reveals intimate details that Frank has never heard before, and what does that mean for their relationship as brothers? How much does Frank put on a show for Ray and Joe when he recounts the robbery? How much is he pretending to be something for his brother that he is not truly? It is the ‘little exaggerations’ that make our stories live in the present to those who did not live them in the past. And in those exaggerations and new revelations live kernels of truth; and sometimes truths that would otherwise be too painful to express.
The joy of this production is to live in those moments and discover new ideas with each retelling. The characters are telling their stories, but we as actors are as well. In the theatre we talk about the beauty of live performance being that it’s different every night. We as actors and as characters hear and react to new and different stimuli every performance. And this production in particular is about those moments of hearing something new for the first time, discovering something new about your brother, or your friend, even though you may have heard the same story a hundred times. Because, despite the retellings, we never get tired of hearing them.
THIS LIME TREE BOWER was first produced at the Crypt Arts Centre, Dublin, on September 26, 1995, an Íomhá Ildánach/Fly by Night co-production. The play was subsequently performed at the Bush Theatre, London, from July 3, 1996. It was originally produced in the United States by Primary Stages Company, Casey Childs, Artistic Director, on May 5, 1999.
Our mission at Quotidian Theatre Company is to find truth and beauty in the everyday, presenting plays in an understated, impressionistic style. We are proud to be the Resident Theater Company at our performance space, The Writer’s Center in Bethesda.