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Well-intentioned Ann Lovett-inspired play feels out of time 

Mary and Me’s attempts to project us into the attitudes and mindset of the 1980s are not very successful

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Homage - Irene Kelleher in 'Mary and Me' at the Everyman online

Homage - Irene Kelleher in 'Mary and Me' at the Everyman online

Swimmer Mercedes Gleitze in 1930. Gleitze pioneered women's sea swimming, then gave all the money she earned to homeless charities, before retiring into silence. Lynda Radley’s one-woman show, The Art of Swimming, tells something of her story

Swimmer Mercedes Gleitze in 1930. Gleitze pioneered women's sea swimming, then gave all the money she earned to homeless charities, before retiring into silence. Lynda Radley’s one-woman show, The Art of Swimming, tells something of her story

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Homage - Irene Kelleher in 'Mary and Me' at the Everyman online

Mary and Me Everyman online

& Cork Midsummer Festival preview

 

Sometimes you can conflate dates successfully for theatre; at other times, the gaps of attitude and comprehension are just too wide. And Irene Kelleher’s Mary and Me unfortunately falls into the latter category.

It dates apparently from 2014 when it was produced at the Everyman in Cork, went on to have a radio version several years later, and has now been re-adapted for digital transmission by Everyman at Home.

It was inspired, the playwright/performer says, by the Ann Lovett horror story from 1984 when the 15-year-old schoolgirl died in childbirth, alone, in the grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Granard Church in Longford.

But 30 years on from that real-life tragedy, Kelleher’s attempt to project herself into the attitudes and mindset of the era are not very successful.

Her Hannah is the same age as Lovett, and probably in the same situation (though it’s not entirely clear if she is pregnant or merely castigated by the town’s older generation as a “brazen scut” – a description Hannah uses for talking to Mary Magdalene who, she points out to the statue of the Virgin, “did all right” and “was married to Jesus and ended up a saint”.

Either way, reported to her father by a nosy neighbour for her behaviour at a party, where she may have had sex more or less willingly, or may have been raped, and anyway is abandoned by her boyfriend, she is “sent away”.

Hannah has occupied herself sketching the Virgin’s statue while she muses about Mary’s preoccupations as she approached the birth of Jesus (“all that baby bombshell stuff from Gabriel”). Mary was lucky to have Joseph, she says, because otherwise she’d have been stoned when they found out she was pregnant.

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For herself, Hannah has been encouraged in her artwork by Miss Lynch, although she can’t manage maths. (She even lied to Sister Concepta that she had her period, so she could concentrate on her art instead of maths.) 

And she’s obsessed by aviator Amy Johnson, whose story has made her determined to become a pilot herself, with the sky “her home”. At the same time, she’s investigating art schools. In fact, she wants a lot more out of life than Glenroe on the telly.

And all of this slightly frenetic detail ends up making the writing fail to ring true: the musings are those of a young (admittedly very young) woman, not the bewildered child Kelleher seems to want to portray. Equally, her acting is uneven, swinging from slightly unsuccessful wide-eyed innocence to sly knowingness.

The direction is by Belinda Wild, and the piece is filmed effectively (particularly the outdoor sequences) by Sean Breathnach, with sound by Cormac O’Connor and lighting by Donal McNinch.

 

Cork Midsummer Festival begins tomorrow. Most of the events remain online only, but theatrically speaking, there are offerings to get your teeth into – despite the laptop being no substitute for the living, breathing atmosphere of the theatre.

Landmark and the Festival are co-producers on a new play by Deirdre Kinahan, The Saviour, with Marie Mullen and Brian Gleeson. A woman reflects, in bed, on her 67th birthday. Downstairs is a man: a younger man. And the scenario takes off from there. Louise Lowe directs on the Everyman stage.

Annabelle Comyn will be the director for her Hatch Company’s co-production of Marina Carr’s new adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Woolf may be in the process of being reassessed as somewhat overrated, but she does remain pivotal to certain experiences and ways of thinking about human relationships.

Filmed on the Everyman stage, there’s an impressive cast with Olwen Fouéré (playing cross-gender), Declan Conlon, Derbhle Crotty, Aoife Duffin and Nick Dunning.

Lynda Radley’s one-woman show The Art of Swimming, an homage to the pioneering 1920s cross-channel swimmer Mercedes Gleitze, is having a revival single performance tomorrow.

It left me considerably underwhelmed when it featured in the Dublin Fringe a number of years ago – but this time Tom Creed is on board as director, and Creed is always an asset to any production.

‘Mary and Me’ is available to stream on demand at everymancork.com. Tickets for ‘The Saviour’ (three live performances on June 19 and 20; on demand, June 21-27); ‘To The Lighthouse’ (online, June 25-27); and ‘The Art of Swimming’ (live on June 14; on demand, June 15-16), contact corkmidsummer.com


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