SHIT – Project Arts Centre – Review
Dates – 02-05 March 2022
This play had a fairly circuitous route to the stage. It was originally intended to be part of the St Patrick’s Festival in 2020 but was one of the first events to be cancelled due to the pandemic. As actor Kate Stanley Brennan said in our recent interview “Our opening night very quickly became our closing night”. Thankfully, for those that missed it two years ago, it has returned to the Project stage. The play has been revived as part of the 15-Year Anniversary programme of THISISPOPBABY.
The play was written by Australian playwright Patricia Cornelius and was first staged by the Melbourne Theatre Company in 2015. It was set in Australia but has been converted to a Dublin setting, while still missing a lot of our local vernacular and colour. It is not for the faint of heart with a proliferation of foul language throughout. In an early part of the play, the three young women have a competition to see who can complete a full sentence without a curse word! They find it quite a struggle. As the playwright said herself “Lovely people would ring up and ask for two tickets for . . . then they would whisper . . . S-H-I-T. I had to laugh because if they can’t say ‘shit’ how are they going to deal with all the f—s and c—s in the play?”
The work follows the exploits of three young women, Billy, Bob and Sam, who are on the streets of Dublin. There is no strong storyline, instead, we are presented with a series of vignettes that give us an insight into the minds of the protagonists. Sometimes the characters talk amongst themselves, laughing and abusing each other. At other times, an individual actor talks directly to the audience while the others lurk in the background. Special mention must go to choreographer Philip Connaughton, who worked with the actors on their movement on stage. There are moments of dance, where we see their wild abandon and it does help to add intensity to the piece.
The stage is a raised platform and a back wall in the middle of the Project space. There are three plinths that the actors use when they’re not involved directly in the action. The back wall of the set has a series of cracks between the panels. They are used to good effect, as different coloured lights pour through these gaps setting the mood.
The appeal of the script is obvious, with three strong female characters and a sense of anarchy but it would have been helped by a stronger story arc and denouement. It is a piece that focuses on the characters and is highly dependent on the cast, and the three actors on stage embrace the madness of these boisterous and foul-mouthed characters. Kate Stanley Brennan plays Billy, the leader of the gang, so to speak. She is wild-eyed and irreverent, constantly looking for a laugh. Aisling O’Mara is the most controlled of the group, at times almost emotionless as she struggles with gender issues. Nicky Lewis plays Sam and is the most authentic and believable of the three, displaying a fragility, with her emotions bubbling just under the surface. It’s a work that focuses on a group of young women on the edge of society who are rarely shown on stage or screen. They are from broken families and have forged a new one amongst their friends.
Kate Stanley Brennan (Conversations After Sex),
Aisling O’Mara (Redemption of a Rogue/Netflix)
Nicky Lewis (RIOT)
Directed by: Jenny Jennings
Written by: Patricia Cornelius
Set Design: Emmett Scanlon
Costume Design: Molly O’Cathain
Lighting Design: Sarah Jane Shiels
Sound Design: Jenny O’Malley
Music Composition: Oberman Knocks
Choreography: Philip Connaughton
Producer: Carla Rogers