Edinburgh Fringe 2015
In 2010, Jacqueline discovered that she had a brother. Her mother had given birth to him in 1949 in an Irish mother and babies home. That same year, the Dutch world service radio, where Jacqueline worked, was investigating child abuse in the Catholic Church… A new one-woman play based on actress Jacqueline Nolan’s dark family history. A piece which situates deeply personal experience within a global context and explores the repercussions of institutional abuse with sensitivity and intelligence.
Jacqueline Nolan offers a charming performance, delivering a series of interesting characters with confidence and sincerity. Warm and likeable, I am instantly at ease in her presence and slowly drawn to the story as it begins to unfold. The fictionalized characters that have been developed on the basis of this research are complex and believable. Nolan is unwavering in her attention to detail and the familiarity with which she performs these characters hints at the reality in which they are founded. Small mannerisms, shifts in posture and voice, add depth to the various personalities presented and a richness to the overall feel of the show. It is an intimate piece, both in subject and delivery. However, the painstaking research that lies behind this play situate it in the context of global events whose horrific nature I found unsettling. Do not be deceived by the gentle tone and delivery, the material is deeply political and unveils the disturbing ramifications of institutional abuse.
The set is basic. A chair and some family photographs are all that are needed to set the scene. Sound effects are used to evoke various locations, jazz recordings and a ticking clock take us from a brothers living room to the misty past of a mother now gone. There are moments when the lighting feels slightly overdone, scene changes might be smoother and I feel that the number of blackouts disrupt my involvement in the work. Nolan’s character transitions could be a little sharper – there are a few instances where she disappears behind a curtain and returns with some extra items of clothing to insinuate a change. This seemed unnecessary and I felt it slowed the performance. What’s more, I would like to have seen some of these items remain on stage. They may have supported the development of the plot and my investment in the characters by giving me something concrete to follow. The events on which this show is based are extremely complex, and at times, I found the performance difficult to follow. Some minor changes of this kind might support audience members such as myself and help bring us further into the narrative.
Overall, this is a strong performance and I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in Ireland, family history or any of the themes involved.