A Lover’s Odyssey
Or her blind obsession. In Karen Cogan‘s latest play “Drip Feed,” presented by Soho Theatre and Fishamble:The New Play Company, Brenda’s undying love for Olivia knows no bounds. And doesn’t know when to stop. Like Brenda’s sofa-spread life, “Drip Feed” rambles through the streets of Cork but doesn’t go anywhere all that interesting. Yet what it offers instead is a deeply enjoyable and insightful character study of a troubled, young gay woman living in Cork in the late nineteen nineties.
Signs of trouble are there from the outset. Anna Reid’s minimalist and purposely sloppy set leaves enough clues scattered about. A toppled lamp stand, an upturned chair, a sofa bed with a torn and dirty mattress; Brenda might talk confidently, but everything around her screams something is drastically wrong. Balancing on a wheelie bin in Olivia’s garden with a painting of Olivia stuck down the back of her knickers should have been a dead giveaway. That she took the painting, painted by Olivia‘s new lover Sam, from out of their bin should have screamed 'get thee some professional help.' But Brenda, a permanent part of Cork’s furniture, doesn’t process the world the same way as everyone else. Thank God for Veronica, a fellow lesbian who puts a roof over her head when Brenda’s sister, Rita, throws her out of the family home for being openly gay. But Veronica has her own problems. And when both their problems come to a head one standard, alcohol fuelled night, and Brenda finds herself waking up somewhere she wants to be but isn’t wanted, the omens aren’t good that it’s all going to end well.
Showing shades of Dublin Oldschool, “Drip Feed’s” world of polarised siblings and lamented ex-lovers, with its tortured odyssey through a much loved city, is steeped in retro and earthiness. Yet “Drip Feed” offers less of a narrative and more of an encounter. If Cogan’s wonderful similes, language, and superbly observed details are often gorgeous, narratively there isn’t all that much happening. As a result, the few narrative twists are spotted a mile off and the end feels like it just ran out of space. Even so, the often bizarre encounter with the period clotted, hangover suffering, irrepressible Brenda proves to be utterly captivating. Due to an impeccable and impressive one woman performance by a superb Cogan. Throughout, Cogan ensures spending time in Brenda’s presence is both a wonderful and unsettling experience. Like a stranger who’s just sat beside you on a long bus journey home, suddenly she’s there, with all her baggage. And even if all Brenda says doesn’t match with the reality around her, the reality of Brenda proves to be a delight. All superbly directed by Oonagh Murphy. Though Murphy’s placement of seats either side of the stage was a curious decision, with Cogan frequently playing with her back to one side or another for short periods.
Those familiar with Cork’s landmarks and landscape will find an additional layer of enjoyment in this touching encounter. If, in the end, you’re unlikely to be blown away by “Drip Feed’s” narrative, there’s a very good chance you’re going to fall a little in love with Cogan’s warts-and-all Brenda. Though you probably won’t be inviting her home any time soon.
“Drip Feed” by Karen Cogan, presented by Soho Theatre and Fishamble:The New Play Company, runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2018 at Project Arts Centre until September 22
For more information, visit Project Arts Centre or Dublin Fringe Festival 2018