Monday 16 December 2019

Theatre: The horror of the giant white rabbit

Microdisney: ECT and the darkness of mental disturbance make for a gripping piece of theatre

Gripping: Judith Ryan gives a spellbinding performance
Gripping: Judith Ryan gives a spellbinding performance

Emer O'Kelly

Neil Flynn's Microdisney has little relationship with a beaming Mickey Mouse. There is a giant white rabbit, yes, but it is a nightmare figure induced by barely remembered horrors in the mind of a disturbed woman.

If ever people suggest that we should "move on" from condemning child abuse and hunting down and exposing its perpetrators, as has been the determined war cry of the defenders of the "good" done in Irish institutions over the years, there is a short (hour-long) shattering reply in Flynn's play, an AC production at the New Theatre in Dublin.

Clodagh, a skinny wild-eyed figure, is wandering on the filthy, rock-scattered shoreline near what used to be her home. She wears only a nightgown, having escaped The Woman who looks after her in the hospital in between her "electrocutions." Clodagh has another name as well, from a long time ago when she was six years old, and a man bought her a chocolate bar before taking her to see the giant white rabbit he said lived down by the skips, well away from where people walked and played.

Somewhere in her confused adult mind, Clodagh believes she knew once what it was to be in love. After all, someone sat her on his knee and played with her, and told her that she was beautiful, that she would dance like "Anna Pav-alova," and that she would be famous, and they would call her "Clodagh Corolla."

And she did see the white rabbit, a fearsome huge face coming shimmering through distorted white light when the man ran away from her and other men pursued him. But it's all confused, not real. Real is when she cuts her foot on the sharp stones and the blood reminds her that "Time is a catacomb since then….but….my blood bleeds; I am alive." Being alive, she seems somehow to know, is her tragedy.

Microdisney is an extraordinary piece of writing, as moving as it is horrifying. It is spellbindingly performed by Judith Ryan under Peter Reid's direction: he has achieved a result that is as seamless as it is empathetic. And the mood is perfectly sustained by Cathy O'Carroll's lighting.

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