Rathmines Road – Solstice Arts Centre, Navan

Reviewer: Louise Tallon

Writer: Deirdre Kinahan

Director: David Nelson

The curtain rises on Ciara Cassoni as Sandra, cavorting unenthusiastically with husband Ray (Padraig McLaughlin), on the couch in the ‘good’ room of the Byrne family home. The grieving daughter has returned to Wicklow from London to sell the house following her mother’s death. She seems preoccupied and is relieved when Ray finally goes to bed, leaving her alone with her thoughts.

The lights dim and we are transported back to earlier that same evening. Dairne, (Paula Brady), a droll, witty old school friend, calls to extend her sympathies to Sandra, who doesn’t immediately recognise her transitioned former classmate, David. Soon after, as previously arranged, local auctioneer Linda (Sharon Carroll), along with husband Eddie (Diarmuid McGuinness), arrive to discuss the estate sale over a glass of wine.

It is when Sandra lays eyes on Eddie that her demeanour changes and tension manifests. What follows is an unravelling of the persona she had constructed in order to function in her life after a violent assault during her student days. Will Sandra confront her rapist from the party that night on Rathmines Road or will secrecy prevail? Cassoni gives a convincing performance of the traumatised survivor, vacillating between anger and distress.

Deirdre Kinahan has written this hard-hitting piece from an extremely interesting perspective. While the victim’s experience is both horrific and harrowing, it is Kinahan’s emphasis on the reaction of the other protagonists, to an affecting and inconvenient truth, that is utterly compelling.

This play is a good fit for Navan Theatre Group’s entire ensemble cast. Their characterisation is convincing across the board. While you might expect Dairne’s role to be the most engaging given her history (and Brady certainly brings levity), it is Linda who commands your attention on the stage. Carroll conveys the gamut of emotions experienced by Eddie’s wife with tremendous resonance. Her monologue on having been the subject of leering grins and lewd remarks because of her “melon tits” is particularly powerful. McLaughlin is persuasive as a decent, loving husband just as McGuinness is a plausible villain.

David Nelson’s direction is consummate. Attention to detail is evident from the meticulously designed and constructed set, to the costumes, lighting and sound. Other than pacing being sometimes slow in relation to pauses between lines, the movement of the actors and his interpretation of the script should please the playwright. Techniques such as the lowering of lights and the addition of a cardigan to suggest shifting timeframes work well. In terms of continuity, broken glass remaining on stage for the final scene when it may or may not have previously existed is possibly a glitch in the matrix.

The subject matter of Rathmines Road is discomfiting and not what you might ordinarily choose for an evening’s entertainment, but then isn’t that the whole point of this play – to unsettle its audience and provoke us into examining our responses in a similar situation? The anticipated repercussions of Sandra’s imagined disclosure are her perception and may stem, sadly, from a festering well of fear, shame, and self-blame. But who is to say her ideation isn’t too wide off the mark?

Ran Until 13th April 2024.

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The Ireland team is currently under the editorship of Laura Marriott. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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