Featured in this April’s Limerick Fringe Festival and now playing in repertory in their North American premieres at SoHo Playhouse, Eavan Brennan and Siobhan Donnellan’s Get the Boat and Colette Forde’s Innit – two short one-act works created and performed by contemporary Irish women (and the first offerings in the venue’s series of “emerging global female voices”) – address the personal turmoil of female characters facing critical social issues, as seen through a gynocentric lens.
In Get the Boat, produced by Holy Show Theatre Company, two strangers, both mothers, share a double berth on a ship leaving Ireland. As the women chat, they begin to reveal to each other their common reason for making the trip, the different circumstances that led to their decisions, and the serious amount of thought they both invested in the choice that they made. Directed by Ruth Smith, Brennan and Donnellan deliver the disparate backgrounds, distinct psychology, and heartfelt emotions of the women, in a two-sided interchange that is as much an intimate conversation between them as it is a political debate on a still-controversial issue (in the climate of both Catholic Ireland and current America). Their discourse is framed by projections of news footage and statistics on the subject at hand, which serve to contextualize the theme of the show, but remove us from the narrative and its shipboard setting (evoked in a slipshod design of two twin beds with a nightstand between and a sail-like fabric behind that serves as the projection screen). While the format provides relevant information, it lacks integration; the factual material could have been written into the characters’ abruptly-ended dialogue for greater consistency and dramatic effect. At present, the piece seems more like a work-in-progress than a finished play.
Innit, a one-woman show written by and starring Forde, is a fervid first-person monologue that examines the life and mind of an Irish-born high-school girl growing up in Manchester, England, in the 1990s. Though the underprivileged character’s local slang and heavy working-class accent are often difficult for an American audience to understand (e.g., “innit” = “isn’t it”), her intonations, facial expressions, gestures, and body language speak volumes and clearly underscore everything she is saying, thinking, and feeling. Wearing a disheveled school uniform on her first visit to the “psychiologist,” the outspoken, foul-mouthed, and heart-rending fifteen-year-old opens up with disturbing disclosures about her classmates, her dysfunctional parents, and the abuse she has endured from them; her plans to improve her looks and her hopeful aspirations to become a singer and dancer (interspersed segments of music videos and silhouetted dancing lighten the mood, but lengthen the awkward transitions between scenes); her memories of the few caring people who treated her with kindness; and her unwitting revelations of all the pain, loneliness, desperation, and insecurities buried beneath her brazen exterior and her devastating sense of being ugly, unwanted, and not good enough. While Forde’s adult face belies her credibility as a youth, and the show’s ending comes with unexpected suddenness, her performance is a tour-de-force of teenage angst.
Paired together by SoHo Playhouse in its “Irish Women Write” repertory, both Get the Boat and Innit are well acted, poignant, and relevant. But, as is often the case with experimental Fringe work, each could benefit from more development, a less abrupt conclusion, and a better-integrated design.
Running Time: Approximately 35 minutes, without intermission.
Running Time: Approximately 50 minutes, without intermission.