Following a 2009 run in Ireland, Deirdre Kinahan, playwright and artistic director of Tall Tales Theatre Company, brings her fast-paced comedy drama about guilt, repression and familial responsibility to the Bush Theatre for its UK premiere.
14 years after committing a violent crime, Nial returns to the family home with his new bride in an attempt to make a fresh start. But while he is trying his best to move on, it’s clear his family are still suffering. His neurotic, vulnerable mother seeks consolation in a rigorous programme of anti-depressants and relies heavily on her two daughters, Ciara and Niamh, who do all they can to stop her ‘going gaga again’. To placate her, they all gather round the table to play happy families, but the walls of denial and pretence soon come crashing down. For the elephant in the room is that, at 16, Nial murdered Niamh’s best friend. And, tonight, his sisters want an explanation.
The acting is superb – particularly that of Maeve Fitzgerald, cagey, aggressive and tightly-wound as the bitter, typically absent Niamh, and Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, resilient and unsentimental as the younger, more responsible Ciara. Ronan Leahy effectively underplays Nial’s violent streak to create a very human character with just a hint of a threatening edge, and both Rebecca O’Mara as his young wife, Ruth, and Will Joseph Irvine as Niamh’s unwelcome boyfriend, Fin, give well-observed performances as nervously over-compensating, broadly smiling newcomers, eager to make a good impression.
Kinahan’s writing is incredibly naturalistic, brilliantly perceptive, and very, very funny. She proves adept at working with dramatic circumstances and high-octane feeling, without ever slipping into melodrama; nothing is overdone or overplayed – the only over-emoting comes from Irvine, who is a little zealous in his face-pulling and hand-wringing in the background. The immaculate, orderly kitchen in which the action unfolds, with its gleaming countertops, tablecloths and china tea sets, epitomises Nial’s mother’s desperate efforts to create a forced normality, a civilised exterior. This domestic setting, along with the constant business on stage (well choreographed by director David Horan) – the characters are forever unpacking groceries, making sandwiches, setting the table – grounds the heightened emotion in mundane activity. In this neat, polite, middle class world of quiche and meringues, emotions must be mastered, tea must be made and life must carry on, and that makes the underlying tension and horror all the more potent.
Moment runs until March 26th at the Bush Theatre, Shepherd's Bush Green, London W12 8QD. Tickets £20 (£10 concessions).
Production shot by Geraint Lewis