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  • Chris O'Rourke

Bloody Yesterday

Elizabeth Moynihan and Sinead Keegan in Deirdre Kinahan's Bloody Yesterday. Image uncredited.


Somedays you can't turn a corner without bumping into a play by Deirdre Kinahan. To call her prolific would be an understatement. To call it a cause for concern an overstatement. Yet her widespread popularity raises questions about what makes for a successful play? One thing's for sure, Kinahan's works, by and large, are extremely enjoyable. Especially when they steer clear of the didactically political and delve into the intimate and personal.

Like her latest, Bloody Yesterday, currently at Glass Mask Theatre, a modest tale of a mother and her abandoned daughter. Told as a series of alternating monologues, a cobbled chronology emerges in which Lily, an Englishwoman, falling for an Irish farmer, is swept off her feet into a new life slumming on the West Coast of Ireland. A woman in love with a romantic idea of Ireland, of living on a farm, of painting by the mountains and sea. Brought down to earth with a mud and mist soaked plop. Motherhood becoming the rock on which she almost perishes, Lily not prone to the maternal instinct. Leaving young daughter, Síofra, mystified as one day mother, Mammy, Mam, Lily, gets into a shiny red car and never returns. Not heard of again until a card lands in the postbox over two decades later, revealing a hidden family secret.

Narratively, very little takes place in real time, with introspection and reflection being the storytelling devices of choice. Aside, that is, from Síofra getting her groove on to a number of scene break songs which offer subtle subtextual connections. Yet what Bloody Yesterday lacks in action, Kinahan compensates with brilliantly astute detail. Language that conjures everything before your eyes whilst doing an emotional deep dive. Even though, at times, drowning in a deluge of detail can diminish the power of a key moment, hearing about it a little too long rather than letting it breath. Making the moment, like Lily, seem uncomfortable with intimacy. Its opposite, too little detail, undermining the play's greatest moment of intimacy in an untidy and unsatisfying ending. Like reaching the cliffhanging, last episode of a brilliant TV series only to discover they won't be renewing it.

Elizabeth Moynihan and Sinead Keegan in Deirdre Kinahan's Bloody Yesterday. Image uncredited.

Written specifically for the Glass Mask Theatre venue, this deft two hander fits neatly into the space. Director Rex Ryan positioning mother and daughter either side of a physical divide, emphasising the sense of distance. As for performances, given the talent Ryan had to work with, it was probably the easiest directing gig of his life. Elizabeth Moynihan as the stiff upper lip, Lily, is marvellous, making you understand someone for whom selfishness and her survival are her best attributes. Moynihan expressing so much while reining it all in. Meanwhile Sinead Keegan as Síofra is a revelation. Delivering each line as if it just occurred to her, making every sentence a shared discovery and us her co-conspirators, complimented by a beautifully judged physicality.

Bloody Yesterday marks the final instalment in Glass Mask Theatre's 2021/2022 season. Ending May 29 with a one night only musical performance by Don Mescall and Band to wrap it up. Safe to say it's been something of a thrilling, insane, rollercoaster season. Rex and Migle Ryan likely to sleep for two weeks come May 30. Refreshingly brave and hugely committed, Glass Mask Theatre has been successful not only in creating a space for new writing like Bloody Yesterday, but in recognising and promoting new acting talent. Many benefiting from working with seasoned pros like Moynihan, or Clelia Murphy. All of which is in evidence in Bloody Yesterday in which Kinahan, Moynihan and a phenomenal Keegan shine. Roll on next season.

Bloody Yesterday by Deirdre Kinahan, runs at Glass Mask Theatre until May 28.

For more information visit Glass Mask Theatre.


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