PS I Love You
Postscript. Something added to the end of a letter. An apt title for a new work by Noelle Brown and Michèle Forbes exploring the institutionalised removal of children for adoption from unmarried mothers by The Catholic Church, and the wall of silence that greets those seeking to locate their birth parents or their lost children. Humorous and poignant at times, Brown’s autobiographical tale of her search for her own birth mother, structured around a series of letters, adds another voice to those seeking justice and recognition. But if the aspiration is admirable, in a post Philomena and The Magdalene Sisters landscape “Postscript’s” important political theme simply isn’t done full theatrical justice in what is a heartfelt, but ultimately flawed, production.
Built around two alternating monologue performances, “Postscript” sees Private Investigator Breda Brogan, aka Noelle, going head to head with Mother NoHeart, a nun with all the secrets, in an effort to get information on Noelle's biological mother. Meanwhile Aunt Patty sends regular correspondences from Cork, reminding Noelle that her adoptive mother, Rita, isn’t happy with this search she’s undertaken, even though it was Rita who made Noelle aware she was adopted in the first place. As letters are received and lost, time passes as Noelle moves through countless addresses, wrestling always with the half-informed imaginings that plague her mind; why does she not look like anyone in her family, how does she go about getting a birth cert, why did her mother give her up, and what would it be like to find out her mother had been standing right next to her and she didn’t even know? In the absence of answers Noelle finds silence, but maybe, in time, there might also be something resembling closure.
Performed by Brown, with Bríd Ní Neachtain performing additional roles, “Postscript’s” script is built on a series of all too obvious technical devices that look a little too much like exercises from a creative writing course. A detective story device kicks everything off and proves quite engaging for a time before becoming ultimately repetitious and wearing thin. Letters from home, letters lost, and letters to her mother and her mother’s priest form the backbone of “Postscript’s” alternating monologues. While many are indeed humorous and poignant, too often they feel padded. An engaging segment about a postman, his prize-winning tomatoes and a forgotten Mother's Day card being a case in point, which offers a funny snapshot of home life but does little to move the story forward. Indeed, much of the dialogue only expands on a welter of second level details already available, most delivered by a show stealing Aunt Patty, beautifully rendered by Bríd Ní Neachtain. Details that often serve as colour rather than substance, with several characters suffering the same fate. Feeling more like ciphers than characters at times, including Brown’s adoptive parents, they often suggest avenues that are never fully explored. Yet when “Postscript” hits the mark, as in the hospital scene, it can hit home with considerable power, leaving you wishing there had been more of this and a little less of tomatoes, sons in Buffalo and juvenile V.I. Warshawski comparisons.
There's unquestionably a lot of heart in “Postscript” and while it’s autobiographical tale is a labour of love and has some interesting moments, it doesn't always make for the most interesting theatre. A situation not helped by a disappointing light design. Yet Brown is deeply likeable and wears her heart on her sleeve and, along with Ní Neachtain’s Aunt Patty, delivers some wonderful humour as well as much that is thought provoking. For if theatrically “Postscript” is not all it might have been, politically it is right on the money, saying much that needs to be heard with regards to the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill and the lives of the people it directly impacts on.
“Postscript” by Noelle Brown and Michèle Forbes, runs at The Peacock Stage at The Abbey Theatre until June 24th
For more information, visit The Abbey Theatre