|Short, but not mercifully so, Hilary
Fannins new play at The Bush courses through the
disillusion, despair and hope of a loosely knit family in
1970s Dublin. Both disparate and desperate, they are
unified only by the loss several years before of the head
of the family. Some of them want to believe that he is
lost at sea, others that he is lost to the sea. This
absent character and, by implication, the sea provide the
focus for the plays faith and desperation whose
expression is by turn poetic and acerbic.
The adolescent Stephanie (Viviana Verveen) feels the absence of her father more acutely than others, her recollections of him wrapped in the uncritical hue of childhood. Rolling on her ankles, and hands wrapping up in juvenile uncertainty, Verveen draws upon the simplistic and remains sketchy. In the main, though, it is her journey through faith that forms the backbone to the play and this is conveyed with understanding and economy.
Emma McIvor as Madeleine in Mackerel Sky
|It is only Stephanie who believes her
father will return, only she who maintains faith in her
convent education at the hands of the Sisters of
the Halitosis, as her grandmother, Tom, describes
them, warning somewhat alarmingly that Theyll
bleach you and scald you and drown you in linen.
Meanwhile, Ruth Hegartys sassy and Mamie (though past it) is the only one who knows the real whereabouts of her husband, about which she keeps quiet. She is also the only one who doesnt declare her obvious lack of religious conviction. The implication here seems to be that her lack of faith on both counts is well-founded.
Though set in Ireland, the underlying religious tone is a red herring, serving only to underline the plays theme of lost faith and hope. When Stephanie is asked the whereabouts of Toms silver-plated inlaid teaspoons in a mahogany box, she relays that her mother, Mamie, has pawned them to pay the phone bill, But, she adds, youll have to ask St. Anthony about that. While this could be seen as a touching faith, Fannin deliberately throws at us her naiveté when she asks her wayward sister, Maddie, the meaning of Happiness is a tight pussy, as emblazoned on the chest of the latters boyfriends T-shirt.
Emma McIvors prickly Maddie, who does her utmost to rebel against her rebellious mother, provides the best of the plays many humorous exchanges. She declares that her illegitimate child is to be called Led. As in astray? asks Tom. No, as in Zeppelin. When Tom, the rotting matriarch whose authority has been undone by the disappearance of her son, declares My mind has been eaten by the rat of decay, her grandson Jacks laconic consolation Bummer highlights the banality of the previous line.
A disarmingly clumsy self-consciousness always threatens to undermine this play, but the message survives largely intact. Stephanie, finally accepting that her father is unlikely to return, also recognises that sometimes you have to give up, that blind faith is a burden. She craves to believe in her father as she holds out against the lack of faith of those around her, and finally lets go. When Mamie is asked In a word, whats it all about? she lilts Family, Lar, family and faith. It is, and they are all but destroyed.
Contact London Student