Writer: Mark O’Rowe
Director: Annabelle Comyn
Reviewer: Ciara L. Murphy
When Druid’s 2017 theatre programme was announced earlier this year, the company’s Artistic Director Garry Hynes stated that “these are provocative plays and we are living in provocative times”. The programme garnered some controversy due to the fact that it was entirely devoid of women writers. Indeed, Mark O’Rowe’s Crestfall is full of them, women that is. And, it’s true, they are the provocative kind.
However, you shouldn’t be fooled, this play is not kind to its women. In fact, it takes aim at womanhood, reducing women once again on the Irish stage to flawed mothers, objects to serve men, and most problematically of all, punch bags at which to level representations of toxic masculinity. These unproductive, and ultimately useless tropes, have peppered Irish stages for decades and this reviewer wonders what the point of its revival is?
As the audience file into the Mick Lally Theatre they are faced with three barefoot women, splayed dejectedly inside the cavernous orange shipping container. The set, designed by Aedín Cosgrove, is contemporary and brings a visual depth to the piece. The women are dressed in matching linen dresses. This, coupled with the set, highlights the fact that the women here are nothing more than cargo in this production.
Olive Day (Kate Stanley Brennan), Alison Ellis (Siobhán Cullen), and Tilly McQuarrie (Amy McElhatton) launch into three versed monologue sequences peppered with tales of abuse, torment, and sadistic torture at the hands of the men in their lives. The three actors are undoubtedly skilled. Alison Ellis, in particular, stands out with a restrained and competent take on O’ Rowe’s poetic verse. Stanley Brennan too seems in her element, spitting and snarling through the dark monologue, true to the character she represents. McQuarrie starts off on shakier ground, but comes into her own nearing the end of the piece.
Crestfall may have the best of intentions, it is indeed provocative, but unfortunately not in a useful way. O’Rowe illustrates that he is incapable of writing psychologically rounded women. Instead he falls prey to the trap of fetishizing trauma rather than challenging it. The women in this play are objects to be consumed, wounded, and left to die.
Ultimately the production tries to do too much, and the only challenge it poses is to itself. This play, exhumed from the canon is better off put back to rest. Irish theatre can do much better for its women.
Runs until 29 July 2017 | Image: Contributed