Pumpgirl – Smock Alley – Review
Pumpgirl (Jolene O’Hara) works at a local garage in a border town in south Armagh. It’s a garage that gets little attention as the petrol is cheaper on the other side of the border so most people go there instead. Pumpgirl spends her days checking people’s oil or doing other small jobs for the passing trade. Her favourite customer is Hammie (Patrick Ryan) who calls more often than he needs to! The two meet outside of work also, as they are having an affair. Hammie’s wife Sinead (Seona Tully) is at home with the kids, with no notion of what her husband is up to. When Hammie invites Pumpgirl out to meet some of his friends on a wild drink-fuelled evening, their lives change for the worse.
The play is presented as a series of interwoven monologues, as each of the three characters take their turn to tell their story. The characters from one monologue appear in the others to allow the viewer to see the story from a variety of different perspectives. Hammie is a touch wild, and shows little or no regard for his wife and family. Pumpgirl is a tomboy who sees herself as one of the lads. Sinead is stuck at home minding the children. She dreams of some romance in her life. The story changes after the interval when a traumatic event alters all their lives.
There staging is simple. There is an Esso petrol pump on one side of the stage and three concrete plinths, one for each of the actors. The stage is dark, with a spotlight that moves from one actor to the next to show who is the focus of attention in each section.
The play was written by Abbie Spallen and first performed in 2006. Abbie has won a number of awards for her writing, including the Stewart Parker Award. The style and subject matter evoke a wild and lawless world.
The production is by Decadent Theatre company, who focus on modern Irish playwrights such as Conor McPherson and Martin McDonagh, and this production is similar in style to McPherson’s This Lime Tree Bower (1995). It is quite ambitious for a play of this style to have a two hour run time, as it is difficult to hold the attention of the audience with monologues for such a long period of time. There are moments where the story drags but the ending is quite unexpected and draws the audience back in. The performances are strong and all three actors do well with the text. There are many sharp and funny moments in the story, especially in the earlier part of the play and the humour helps the flow. It is interesting that this play is not better known and it has somehow disappeared from the repertoire. This production should help bring it back into the limelight.
Jolene O’Hara as Pumpgirl
Patrick Ryan as Hammie
Seona Tully as Sinead
Written by Abbie Spallen
Directed by Andrew Flynn
Lighting Design by Mike O’Halloran
Set Design by Owen MacCarthaigh
Costume Design by Petra Breathnach