Uniform – Town Hall Theatre – Review
by Hugh Maguire
Uniform – Produced by Galway theatre company Eva’s Echo – Uniform was streamed from The Town Hall Theatre at 8pm on May 22nd
“A one woman play written and starring award winning playwright Hazel Doolan”
A ‘welcoming’ School Assembly and a Class Reunion years later are used as the framing device to book-end this exploration of the lives of nine young women in present-day Ireland. It explores issues of control, freedom and identity, along with the struggles of being a daughter, wife and home-maker. Can one combine a world of football boots with fashion high-heels?
We engage, albeit fleetingly, with the career trajectory of all nine and have empathy for their challenges along the way. Growing old is one challenge but clearly for the characters here, growing up is also a battle, and facing into the real world where dreams are shattered or never quite fulfilled. The young trainee nurse dropped in the panic-station of a busy A&E Department, is clearly not cut out for what she has let herself in for, too emotionally engaged in the suffering of her charges to have the clinical distance required to be a good nurse. Yet another is dropped into childcare and in spite of her abilities it seems she herself is in need of childcare. There are others, such as the make-up artist with ambitions, where success is a case of likes and followers on social media. The power executive who sacrifices her relationship with her husband and daughter for career advancement. With tight vignettes and insights the piece would lend itself effectively to televising with a range of actors playing each character.
This is a piece of undoubted ambition and serious intent, compromised to some extent by the execution. The simple staging device of a clothes rack with different items of clothing allows us to move from one character to the next. This is important because being able to articulate nine or more different characters certainly required greater vocal dexterity than what was on display here. In one instance, we have a pronounced Northern Ireland accent, to lend variety and difference, but it is not clear whether we are still in the same school or taking a pan-Ireland snap shot. All the rest both in body language and articulation sound quite the same. The caricature of a School Vice-principal does little to strengthen the work and having her recap the names of those we have just witnessed undermines the eloquence of what went before. Would a select group of women be highlighted (or shamed) in such a way? Perhaps that is the author’s experience but the same point could have been made and articulated by a teacher/ principal/ nun with a firmness of purpose. Despite these small flaws this piece has an important message on how women are expected to fit in and fulfil the expectations of others.