The Gap Year – Lyric Theatre – Review
by Cathy Brown
The Gap Year – A Lyric Theatre Production in association with Commedia of Errors
Sat 3—Sun 25 Sep 2022
What happens if three friends in their mid-sixties decide to throw off their responsibilities and vow to travel to every county in Ireland over the course of a year? That is the premise of Clare McMahon’s spirited new play debuting at the Lyric Theatre in association with Commedia of Errors. First developed through Fishamble’s ‘A Play for Ireland’ and the Lyric Theatre’s New Playwright’s Programme, The Gap Year was originally produced for the Lyric’s ‘Listen at the Lyric’ audio series in 2020 before making its way to the main stage.
Recently widowed Kate (Carol Moore), soon-to-be-divorced Oonagh (Marion O ’Dwyer) and put-upon grandmother Roisin (Libby Smyth) have had enough of looking after everyone else in their lives and decide to look after themselves for once. A three day break in Fermanagh swiftly turns into a year-long trip, as the intrepid trio trade in their car for a campervan and decide to travel around Ireland for a year to the annoyance of their respective family members.
As they drive from county to county, the friends argue with nuns in Knock, dance with drag queens in Dublin, discover the joy of sex in Kerry and make unlikely friends in unlikelier places. As they find adventure, it makes sense that they also find themselves.
Ably supported by solid direction from Benjamin Gould and some nifty set design, the three actors successfully depict the literal and emotional journey of these women of a certain age.
Carol Moore is the grounded, emotional beating heart of this production – her grief for her beloved husband Joe is as palpable as it is believable and she is well supported by Marion O’Dwyer and Libby Smith. Frankie McCafferty doesn’t have a lot to work with playing the husbands of Una and Roisin respectively, but his turn as a stroke-afflicted father is an emotional highlight of the evening. Keith Singleton is a refreshing presence in each of his incarnations, while Megan Tyler displays versatility and emotional range in a variety of supporting roles.
The shadow of Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine looms long over The Gap Year, but McMahon’s play is suffused with enough Northern Irish humour to take on a life of its own. At times, the introduction of issues is a little on the nose and the play as a whole would benefit from a more coherent narrative
arc. The episodic nature of the plot creates some pacing issues, but as a celebration of the power of self-discovery, the production hits the mark.
This story of female friendship, road trips and autonomy may not be the most fresh, however, the audience cannot help but be caught up in the journey of these three women and it would take a hard heart not to cheer their eventual emancipation from their daily lives. If the belly laughs and standing ovation from the opening night audience are anything to go by, this particular Gap Year is a winning ticket.