Friday, 19 February 2016

My Name is Saoirse

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Freedom comes easy to the teenage girl who gives Eva O'Connor's solo play it's title. As performed by O'Connor herself, even sitting at the sewing machine patching up her home-made dresses with jaggedy seams as she does in the opening scene of Hildegard Ryan's production for the Sunday's Child company seems to give her a quiet kind of liberation. That will never be a match for Saoirse's best friend Siobhan, mind, a well-developed wild child who's loved by all the boys.

Over fifty-five minutes, O'Connor exposes all of Saoirse's growing pains as she wends her way through 1980s rural Ireland, where sexual enlightenment is a dirty secret more in keeping with Victorian values than the late twentieth century. Sure enough, it's Saorise who falls prey to a temptation that will end her girlhood before it's even begun.

First seen in Edinburgh at the tiny Discover 21 theatre in independent arts space St Margaret's House, My Name is Saoirse has already made ripples here as well as in Brighton and Dublin, picking up Best Performer and Best Writing awards en route. Having taken part in the Traverse 50 new writing initiative, O'Connor has given an even more distinctive and intimate voice to an already assured work.

In careless hands, such a saga could have easily been rendered as an old-time kitchen-sink grimoir. Instead, O'Connor invests both her words and her performance on David Doyle's set of hand-me-down clutter with a ribald back-alley poetry charged with poignancy. This taps into the gobby recklessness of adolescence as much as it does the tightlipped foibles of a society terrified of its own body politic.

The Herald, February 22nd 2016

ends


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