Stronger – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review
Venue – Smock Alley Theatre
Date(s) – 1, 2, 5-9 Oct, 7.30pm, 2,3,9 Oct, 2.30pm
This is a demanding piece of theatre that explores the damage that rape can do and also the topic of restorative justice, which aims to allow the victim of a crime to meet with the perpetrator. Restorative Justice is rarely used in Rape cases, but it has happened in a small number of cases in the UK and the play is loosely based on real-life events. This production changes the setting to Ireland and gives us an insight into how such a meeting could take place.
Jan (Mary Murray) is a teacher that cares about her students. Damon (Scott Graham) is one such pupil. He’s had some problems with the police but he shows promise in Art class and Jan has taken him under her wing, encouraging him. He’s fascinated by cars and he spends all his time doing sketches of the latest models. That is until one lunchtime the two are left alone together in a classroom and the mood changes abruptly. Damon commits an act of sexual violence that will change both their lives forever.
The first half of the play deals with the impact of the rape on the victim. We see how it changes her home life and alters her relationship with her husband Rob (Marcus Lamb). Jan is shattered emotionally by the events and it takes a long time for her to be able to take her place in society once more. The second half of the play focuses on the meeting of the student and the teacher under vastly changed circumstances.
While the depiction of sexual violence is not shown on stage, it is still quite traumatic for the audience. We see the transformation in Jan from a friendly and warm person to a deeply damaged individual and Mullen’s performance is hugely impressive. The other actor that deserves praise is Scott Graham, who plays the student Damon. He succeeds in showing the human side of the young man who has committed this terrible deed. The topic of restorative justice is fascinating and this production succeeds in explaining the process and how it can help heal those involved.
Cast & Creative Team:
Directed by Paul Meade
Cast: Scott Graham, Marcus Lamb, Fionntán Larney, Mary Murray, Jennifer O’Dea
Set & Costume Design: Maree Kearns
Lighting Design: Mark Galione
Sound Design: Michael Stapleton
Visual Design: John Galvin
Produced by Gill McCaw
Dramaturgy by Hanna Slattne