Edinburgh Fringe 2014
"Turn morning to midnight with this countryside darling. Salisha Quinn, friendship, cows, helicopters, daddy, sex, poodles, chocolate cake, America, Denis, whiskey, balaclavas, daddy, pregnancy tests, bedwetting and beauty-pageants, Brazilian hippies, fields and Robert Burke. Kitty in the Lane is a one-woman play that journeys through a girl’s life in a wild and challenging rural Ireland. Sell-out show by Irish actress Áine Ryan brings its magic to Edinburgh."
Kitty lives down the lane, in a preciously won house in the back of beyond. We’re in Ireland. Kitty recounts her life to us, and holds little if anything back. This is a brutally direct monologue which presents us with a kind of purgatory state that, shockingly, represents the normal life for the character, Kitty, played by Áine Ryan (who also wrote the piece).
Kitty has not had an easy life and, even among others, is a solitary soul, her narrative shared with us partly representing her self-conversation. This is a play rooted in isolation – physical and emotional.
Áine Ryan a wondrous actor. She fully embodies Kitty, and also creates for us with her story showing and telling, the many characters who inhabit her troubled and often cruel world. There’s a wry humour that only the Irish can deliver through turns of phrase, even at the heart of pain and tragedy. The pain magnifies for the audience when Kitty is smiling, even laughing at events which most of us in the audience would be terrified to come even close to.
There’s plenty of nuance in this performance, the turn of a head, a hint of a smile, and an emotional landscape is revealed that is all mixed up anger, pain, acceptance, irony and a bit of wishing. Kitty is not a simple soul, a self-analyser, a commentator on her state and the condiitons in which she finds herself.
Kitty is witty and full of comments on herself, others and the life she has lived. There’s a brilliant sense of the walls closing in, of the house being both a refuge and a prison, and of how trauma coupled with only oneself for a confidant; well, that way madness lies.
The performance lasted well into an hour and twenty minutes or more and was so loaded with dark episodes that it began to sag a bit under the weight of its own script. So much has happened to Kitty that invokes horror and shock, that this truly is a life lived to the fullest that darkness and shadow has to offer. Even one of Kitty’s nightmarish experiences could form the basis of an hour solo drama in itself. Here we have so much laid before us that one shattering happening is piled upon another. If this truly happened in real life, then we have a truly remarkable life – remarkable for all the darkest and most horrendous reasons.
I was gripped by the performance of Áine Ryan. This was a full-blooded, committed portrayal of a woman in lonely, mental decline. Kitty is a victim and as a victim has become a perpetrator. As the story unfolds, some of what is revealed feels a bit predictable. That isn’t necessary a weakness in the writing, nor in the drama, but simply a truth – that one thing leads to another and, often, in the realm of pain and disappointment, those things have a linear predictability. You hurt me, I hurt another, and so it goes on.
Kitty’s life, wasting away down the lane eventually has closed in so far, she has nothing left but her memories and the all too crystal clear version of the events which have happened. Silence is used well in the monologue, but a bit of dramaturgy will give those silences and moments of slow movement even more potency.
I came away feeling that we have a very special piece of theatre here, but that the writer has put too much into the narrative, loaded it so heavily that it becomes a little surreal and loses a little authenticity.
Sometimes things, in drama, can be presented with such polemic realism, in an intimate performance space, and in a fairly short span of time, that they become too heavy for the theatrical experience to bear. I feel that just a bit less will mean quite a lot more in this still high quality solo piece of theatre. There’s a unique performance from the actor, and the script is full of witty irony, of brutal reality, and plenty of shocking events.
We spend an hour and twenty minutes down the lane with Kitty, and it’s a relief to come out of that lane and onto the rainy Edinburgh Streets. Suddenly a crowded Princes Street no longer seems claustrophobic. But it is a relief for nearly all of the right reasons. This is visceral monologue, in the hands of a superb performer. Highly recommended.