Week Two Reviews – Double Bill: The Caoining and Was I Not A Girl

Double Bill: ‘The Caoining’ and ‘Was I Not A Girl’, Ireland Institute, 27 Pearse Street, until Saturday May 18th at 9pm with Saturday matinee at 4pm. 

‘The Caoining’ is a panto like comic romp by Roman Vai and Catie Grainger. Set in Swords where there is a serial killer on the loose, we are in the rented shed at the end of a back garden, with two mis-matched roommates – one a 300 year old banshee. Channelling Bambi Thug’s vocals, Enya Donohue emotes and scares in equal measure as ‘Banshee’. She struggles to keep her job, is picked upon by the sleepless ‘Patrick’ (Richard Neville) and could she become the next victim of the ‘Swords Strangler’, a sinister Donnagh Maycock? 

This short comedy tale of life, repressed love and betrayal is aided an abetted by onscreen newscaster played by Matthew Mc Mahon and Venus Patel. Jay Nesbitt neatly directs and ensures the melodrama dominates in a plot where subtlety does not exist. The play is dedicated to the memory of Greta Price Martin aka Great Goth. A tribute too, to the stage management team led by Jessica Kelly. They had a prop filled set and another play immediately follows, the changeover was expertly handled with great skill and ease. 

Only for Bambi Thug claiming the title ‘Doomsday Blues’ this could equally fit ‘The Caoining’. Who’s day is doomed, and who will be blue at the end of this awaits the next audience. 

Sharing the Bill is ‘Was I Not A Girl’ by Montgomery Quinlan. This story interpolates the experiences of the Irish ‘Dr James Barry’ in Victorian times and ‘Lewis’ a modern day trans man in a beautifully told scenario of inter-age dialogue. There is fire and passion in the dialogue and delivery, well directed by Jodie Sweeney. Cain Calbert (Barry) and writer Montgomery Quinlan (Lewis) are expertly cast.

There is a great chemistry between not just the two eras in the story, but the two characters on stage. Their diction and delivery is first class. Their emotional dynamics are totally plausible and the powerful construction of the simultaneous telling of the historical and contemporary story resonates completely in this fine production.

It is not difficult to see why this play won an IDGTF Bursary. Quinlan is a prime example of the talent that can be liberated when just a little support is given to an emerging artist. Both as performer and writer, Quinlan’s humility and credibility on stage are quite moving, wonderfully contrasted with the confidence of Barry who ‘got away’ with their gender identity, at a time when it was unimaginable. Both tell a story of courage, sacrifice, love and self realisation that will remain with you long after the lights fade. ‘Was I Not A Girl’ is perfectly pitched and one of the finest short pieces ever showcased by this Festival. Great value innovative theatre. AO’B


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