Moment

Deirdre Donnelly, Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, Natalie Radmall-Quirke in 'Moment' by Deirdre Kinahan. Photo: Patrick Redmond

Deirdre Donnelly, Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, Natalie Radmall-Quirke in 'Moment' by Deirdre Kinahan. Photo: Patrick Redmond

Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, Maeve Fitzgerald in 'Moment' by Deirdre Kinahan. Photo: Patrick Redmond.

Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, Maeve Fitzgerald in 'Moment' by Deirdre Kinahan. Photo: Patrick Redmond.

Will Irvine, Deirdre Donnelly, Ronan Leahy in 'Moment' by Deirdre Kinahan. Photo: Patrick Redmond

Will Irvine, Deirdre Donnelly, Ronan Leahy in 'Moment' by Deirdre Kinahan. Photo: Patrick Redmond

How would you react if your teenage son killed your daughter’s best friend? How would you react if your brother served his time for murder and went on to have a successful career and a relationship? These are the core questions facing a mother and her two daughters in Kinahan’s excoriating examination of a family on the verge of perpetual breakdown years after the murderous episode tore them all apart. The unexpected return to the family home in Dublin of son and brother Nial with his new wife provides the cue for the family to attempt to exorcise the demons that have been haunting them.

For the most part the play takes place in real time and David Horan’s direction provides a masterclass in the detailed realism, tantalising pace, and shocking release of tension that is inherent in Kinahan’s sharply observed script. Designer Maree Kearns sets the audience on two sides of the family kitchen where the comings and goings of two daughters and their respective partners structure the mundane existence of their absent-minded mother Teresa (played sympathetically by Deirdre Donnelly). Not only does she forget to take her medication for depression but she also forgets crucial information about her son that provides the dramatic tension of most of the play. While one of her daughters (Ciara, played by Kate Nic Chonaonaigh) has moved on in her life, married to the lovable Dub, Dave (played by Alan King), has children of her own and is the real coper in the family, her sibling Niamh (played with a ferocious intensity by Maeve Fitzgerald) cannot and will not come to terms with what happened to her best friend at the hand of her brother in the past. In fact Maeve Fitzgerald’s performance seems to suggest that she is going through all seven stages of grieving at once. When Nial arrives with his wife Ruth about whom his sisters know nothing, Fitzgerald locks the new arrival (played by Natalie Radmall-Quirke) in a stare that bordered on murderous intent. Radmall-Quirke's performance with cut-glass English accent refrained from a portrayal of a villainous outsider but genuinely attempted to empathize with the family. From that moment on the play opened up into a titanic struggle of Biblical proportions between the urges of forgiveness and pathological hatred.

Details of the murder are scant in the first half of the play but the second act begins with a flashback in which Niamh recalls the moments leading up to the murder. To do this her best friend appears as a child running in and out of Nial’s bedroom to tease him. While a short sequence of scenes featuring these memories provide details of the murder, we are not prepared to step back in time and personally I didn’t feel it was necessary to learn precisely what happened. For me, this play is about what happens in the present and to be taken out of the present ‘moment’ dissipates the tension. But the play regains its tensile composure and the competing forces within the family struggle on. The sisters' partners do their best to stabilise and normalise the situation but ultimately it is the sisters themselves who must find a way forward for themselves and there is a small glimmer of hope at the end, in the superb mundane realistic details of kitchen life.

Perhaps the subject and the form might work better on television, but David Horan’s production is full of beautiful moments that only theatre can capture, such as Niamh smoking outside the kitchen captured by a door frame at the start of Act Two, following on Teresa's upsetting the first moment of family unity around the dinner table by being physically sick all over them at the end of Act One. All of the actors conspire perfectly with the director in this production of realism that is rarely realised so well nowadays in the theatre. The ultimate effect is to restrain us from making rash judgements about the past because the present is so vibrantly conflicted. The whole production (from play to performance) is a nuanced study in compassion that moves, troubles, but lives long in the memory.

Brian Singleton is a Research Fellow of the Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin and Associate Professor of Drama at Trinity College Dublin.
 

  • Review
  • Theatre

Moment by Deirdre Kinahan

17-28 November, 2009

Produced by Tall Tales Theatre Company
In Project Cube

Directed by David Horan

Set Design: Maree Kearns

Lighting Design: Moyra Darcy

Costume Design: Elaine Chapman

Music: Alun Smyth

With: Maeve Fitzgerald, Will Irvine, Deirdre Donnelly, Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, Alan King, Ronan Leahy, Natalie Radmall-Quirke, Aela Flynn/Jessica Caldwell-Kenny.