one mans' struggle for love and homosexual acceptance.
In what many consider to be one of Albert Finney’s finest performances, the emotions of an Irishman desperately searching for love and homosexual acceptance are laid bare, in this compelling work from the pen of Barry Devlin.
For here Finney stars as Alfie Byrne, a middle-aged Dublin bus conductor who captivates his passengers with his recitations of poetry and prose, only to be captivated himself upon the arrival of angelic-faced Adele Rice. Only Adele is not all she appears, but then neither is Alfie himself. For beneath the smiles of his outgoing personality and his love of the works of Oscar Wilde, lies the loneliness of a deeply closeted homosexual soul. Too afraid to be his true sexual self, he holds on to life by dreaming of staging Wilde's infamous version of Salome with Adele as his leading lady, all the time hiding a deep affection for his bus driver Robbie Fay, a man who he affectionately calls Bosie.
Yet it is an ambition that is to set in motion a series of events that would come to provide the greatest irony of all. For this man of seemingly no importance, would ultimately come to be of great importance to all those around him and to the community at large.
Set against the backdrop of the Profumo scandal of 1963, at a time when sexual liberation had still to arrive, here Finney shines in his moving portrayal of a man whose lovable public image, hid a repressed private hell. Yet whilst there is no doubt that his pivotal performance binds this drama together, equally impressive is the work from Brenda Fricker as his spinster sister Lily and Michael Gambon as would-be actor Ivor Carney, determined to undermine the staging of a play that in his view - should dare not speak its name.
Yet what is moral or immoral? Is Alfie's sweet affection for Tara FitzGerald as Adele Rice moral, whilst his infatuation with HIS Bosie, finely played by Rufus Sewell, immoral? Or was the attitude of society to homosexuality at this time, forcing as it did most homosexuals to stay prudently in the closet for fear of blackmail, social alienation and employment ruin, the real immoral act?
What is a fact, is that homosexuality whilst not strictly illegal in the Republic of Ireland per se prior to 1993, was effectively rendered illegal by way of laws dating from the period when the whole of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. All this was set to change when a ruling in the European Court of Human Rights in 1988 deemed that Irish laws prohibiting homosexual activities were in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights. Five years later, the Irish parliament formally decriminalised homosexuality.
Such sadly arrived too late for many a real life Alfie Byrne who lived in an era in which both social and religious attitudes, coupled with the law itself, were opposed to those of Wilde inclinations. But in detailing such, Albert Finney gives one of his most committed performances to date; relishing the part, dressed as he is at times in such a state of sartorial elegance, that even Quentin Crisp would have been outshone! Simply wonderful.
starring: Albert Finney, Brenda Fricker, Michael Gambon, Tara FitzGerald, Rufus Sewell, Patrick Malahide, David Kelly, Mick Lally, Anna Manahan, Joe Pilkington, Brendan Conroy and a young Jonathan Rhys Meyers