Katie Mag

'Katie Mag' presented by Roundhouse Productions. Photo: Emma Kavanagh

'Katie Mag' presented by Roundhouse Productions. Photo: Emma Kavanagh

'Katie Mag' presented by Roundhouse Productions. Photo: Emma Kavanagh

'Katie Mag' presented by Roundhouse Productions. Photo: Emma Kavanagh

'Katie Mag' presented by Roundhouse Productions. Photo: Emma Kavanagh

'Katie Mag' presented by Roundhouse Productions. Photo: Emma Kavanagh

Katie Mag, a new play by Jennifer Rogers for Roundhouse Productions, is your age-old 'ugly, duckling' tale where a country girl, the titular Katie (Amy O'Dwyer), with her taste for books in bed and sugary tea, is transformed into a swanlike fashionista after meeting the capricious Mags (Kelly McAuley) in college. Before this, her female influences included a condescending schoolmate, a mother who - as played - seemed permanently pregnant (and stoned) and Auntie T, who speaks louche language with a cigarette and aerosol husk. What precisely Mags does for Katie is unknown. What she gets in return is abundantly clear. All expenses paid and hero worship.

From the start of Katie Mag, we know that this friendship is going to end badly. We meet Katie in the middle of a Winona Ryder style meltdown having absconded with a pregnant woman’s shopping, before flashing back over her entire existence in an imagined conversation with Mags, who acts out all the other characters. The importance of these characters is never explored as one is piled on top of another moving the story, not so much forward, as around in circles. There’s plenty of exposition but little exploration. As Katie overcomes her insecurities, becoming “not as nice as I used to be”, her friendship with Mags propels them both to “battle through blow jobs” to make it to the top of their chosen fields: a fashion journalist and a ModelActressWhatever. But a toll must be paid, as a long suffering boyfriend takes a back seat to druggie decadence and their mutual co-dependence, which eventually wrecks both their mental and physical health.

Photo: Emma KavanaghThe propensity for some actors, particularly younger ones, not only to fly to the failsafe extremes of comedy, but live there, can be a sign of two things: an actor’s inability to understand or trust the material they are working with; or a failure in direction, to help the actors trust that what they are doing is valid on its own without having to reach around for an easy laugh. Katie Mag is full of easy laughs – broad caricature and colloquial accents reducing both the audience and the characters to hollering messes. But the performances are so big, so frantically funny, they trample the attempts of writer/director Jennifer Rogers to explore female friendship, poisonous co-dependency and its corrosion on one's sense of self. For a play whose core themes are grief, loss and friendship, the amount of barrel laughs mined from its more serious content felt cheap and exploitative.

Another worrying trend within this production was the use or suggestion of rape Рor the women who cry it, as mere plot devices without fully exploring the impact of these actions. In the recent Broken Promise Land, a throwaway reference to the act was in fact a picture of the victim's psyche. But its blas̩ use here struck me as misandry.

It’s hard to decipher what, as playwright, Rogers was trying to say in Katie Mag. Is it a comment on the almost virulent effect that occurs when you inject your own personality with aspects of another? Is it a condemnation of some women's inclination to pay their own insecurities forward? It could be a satire of the representation of women and women's issues in the media and art, for all the stereotypes are on display. But the mugging style of performance that Rogers as director allows to reign seems to mock the women who she set out to explore; a last minute segueway into supposed tragedy is not enough to compensate for the archaic portrayals of women.

Caomhan Keane is Senior Theatre Writer for entertainment.ie and has written about theatre for The Irish Times and the Sunday Independent.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Katie Mag by Jennifer Rogers

28 Feb and 2 March, 2013

Produced by Roundhouse Productions, as part of Collaborations 2013
In Smock Alley Boys School

Written and directed by Jennifer Rogers

Sound Composition: Jason Shannon

Lighting Design: Jennifer Rogers

With: Amy O'Dwyer, Kelly McAuley