See No Evil

Patricia Byrne as Tara Burke and Jack Quinn as Danny Quinn in Sole Purpose's 'See No Evil.' Photo: Max Beer

Patricia Byrne as Tara Burke and Jack Quinn as Danny Quinn in Sole Purpose's 'See No Evil.' Photo: Max Beer

Sole Purpose presents 'See No Evil'. Photo: Max Beer

Sole Purpose presents 'See No Evil'. Photo: Max Beer

See No Evil is Sole Purpose’s most recent production, which has been touring periodically since last year. The company’s work plays in small community venues as well as in professional theatres across Ireland and in the UK, and aims to raise debate and awareness around specific social and political issues. Some of their recent productions addressed domestic violence (Don’t Say a Word), global warming (The Shadow Men), and the conflict in the Middle East (Clouds on a Mountaintop, a collaboration with Israeli playwright Orna Akad). See No Evil addresses the issue of ‘elder abuse’ – the abuse of elderly people by those who are supposedly caring for them.

The storyline is a simple one, focusing with a chilling simplicity on the means by which an individual may be isolated, alienated from his or her community, and abused. The plot follows the deteriorating relationship between Danny Quinn, a widower in his eighties who is living alone in a remote area, and his niece Tara, who visits from London when she can. Estranged from his only son Vince, Danny relies on a local family, Mikey and Maura Crawley, for support with daily life. As the play begins, Tara is confident that her old friends the Crawleys will take good care of her uncle, but over the course of her visits she notices Danny becoming increasingly withdrawn and neglected.

Photo: Max BeerAs with most of Sole Purpose’s performances, the design is simple and indicative, facilitating a hectic touring schedule to all kinds of venues. The playing area is furnished to represent a domestic space – Danny’s home – but the performers regularly step out of the realistic boundaries of the performance to address the audience directly, providing background narrative and factual information about elder abuse. This can make for awkward staging, but the playful approach taken by the company smoothes the transitions. Tara’s direct address, for example, is at one point interrupted by Danny asking “Who are you talking to?” calling her back into the scene. The Crawleys’ cruelty is facilitated by a neglectful doctor and social services, and the complicity of the system with the abusers is represented by the actor playing Mikey Crawley taking on their roles and playing them as grimly comic. The play therefore avoids becoming overly didactic, and the audience of elderly users of the local day care and nurses from the nearby hospital responded positively to the performance.

The performances are engaging, with Jack Quinn representing the increasingly despairing Danny, Patricia Byrne as his concerned niece, and Kieran Kelly playing the other roles. The storytelling style of performance works well to communicate a clear narrative and to identify warning signs for relatives and other carers. The production has been nominated for an Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award and will tour to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer.

Lisa Fitzpatrick lectures in Drama at the University of Ulster. 

  • Review
  • Theatre

See No Evil by Patricia Byrne

2 - 24 June, 2010; on tour.

Produced by Sole Purpose Productions
In Paschal McDonald House, Gransha Park, Derry

Directed by Shauna Kelpie

With: Patricia Byrne, Kieran Kelly and Jack Quinn