‘We are not all born equal’ is the tagline for this double bill of short plays exploring how it is to grow up as working class. Both pieces delve into the cause and effect of a Conservative government on different families: one in 1970s Ireland and the other in present-day London.
Killymuck, by Kat Woods and acted by Aoife Lennon, examines the life of Niamh – a young girl navigating growing up on a council estate in 1970s Ireland, with her parents living on benefits and her father having an addiction problem. Inspired by real events, we see into the additional effects that ‘the troubles’, Margaret Thatcher and abortion laws have on Niamh and her peers.
Lennon plays the various roles well, including the role of the narrator/commentator which backs up everything addressed with statistics and facts. It’s this intermittent commentary which brings the piece down though, and makes it less accessible. As much as there are valid points being made, it is a bit of a complex information overload and detracts from Niamh’s story.
Other aspects of the production make it hard to keep track of. The most hard hitting moments, detailing abuse and suicide, could be explored further – and some of the more minor stories could be cut, as some of these feel unnecessary. Likewise, the staging of the commentary scenes means Lennon is not always easily visible to the audience, and the layout of the lighting and the lighting design can be distracting.
Killymuck is work with an important message, but Woods’ material feels overcrowded and at times hard to follow. ★★
Next on the bill is Box Clever, by Monsay Whitney and with all roles played by Redd Lily Roche. Here, the subjects of abuse and mental health are explored through a woman’s experience at a South East London domestic abuse refuge with her daughter.
Despite the heavy subject matter, Whitney’s writing is witty and funny, aided by Roche’s impeccable comedic delivery. Therefore, when the serious moments do hit, they feel even more impactful. Whitney’s exploration of the problems within our care system, and lack of mental health services for low-income families amplify the current injustices facing both these services, and the people who need them, by our current government.
Again, the issue is with the layout of the lighting – as at times it can obscure aspects of Roche from view, which is a shame given her performance.
Roche, in the final scene, is heart-wrenching, and was greeted with a much deserved standing ovation. The final line leaves the open ended question of “What do I do?” hanging in the air. Luckily, this is addressed in the programme as it explaining different ways to enact change, and services which help those like both Marnie in Box Clever and Niamh in Killymuck.
Overall, Box Clever is well written and acted and should be seen particularly by those still standing beside our government as they increase austerity. ★★★★
As a double bill, Box Clever stands out against the former Killymuck; but these plays are important in a time where those in the working classes are struggling more than ever to have equal opportunities and support.