Rearing is Sparing written Thommas Kane Byrne (aka TKB)
In interviews, Byrne makes no secret of his admiration for his mother, Susan Kane. In this two-hander, commissioned by the Axis Theatre, Ballymun, he pays homage to two mothers from inner-city Dublin.
There is a stark simplicity to the set. A large rectangular space with a long narrow table traversing it with a single hardback chair at each end, facing the audience. The entire stage exudes a sense of harshness.
Two women sit at opposite ends of the long table looking straight at the audience. Both are dressed in black, smart trouser suits. Mrs Reynolds (Karen Ardiff) and Mrs Preston (Denise McCormack) are both the mother of two sons. They describe the rearing of their sons.
Mrs Reynolds is the first to describe hers. The eldest who got into trouble and her younger son Dean, who fulfilled all her dreams. Mrs Reynolds retains traces of her childhood religion and turns to St. Antony when needs must, including when her son loses his way. Mrs Preston is cut from a rougher cloth and in this “poxy” world she takes what comes her way and is not inhibited by the “toffee-nosed” who seek to cast judgement on her and her doings.
The story is set in the vicinity of the Central Criminal Court, Parkgate St. in a coffee shop where the two women encounter each other during the course of a trial, where one is the mother of the perpetrator and the other the mother of the victim. Although that gulf separates them there is a great deal in both of their stories that coincides.
Byrne has said in interviews that his favourite things to write about are women and the place he comes from and he sticks to that structure here. Byrne has a discerning ear and an ability to transfer what he hears into an engaging text. He also has an irrepressible sense of humour which constantly informs the text and lightened some of the grimmer moments. He has also said that “nobody past or present has been able to write for women like Tennessee [Williams]”. He is wise to treat Williams as a role model and he is an able pupil.
The life stories of Mrs Reynolds and Mrs Preston kept the audience wanting to know more about these women and their sons. Ardiff and McCormack gave sterling and complementary performances with McCormack perhaps having the advantage of a slightly more audacious text. Kane has an irrepressible natural flair for the comic and both Ardiff and McCormack articulated this flair with assured timing. This is an intelligent, heartfelt and humorous play that deserves to be seen more widely after its comparatively short opening run.