Anne Hailes reviews: Flesh & Blood Women

Green Shoot Productions
Flesh & Blood Women
Baby Grand Studio at the Grand Opera House Belfast
Until 24th May 2014

This trilogy, under the banner of Flesh & Blood Women, is powerful. Three plays, each with a different theme but all linked by the experiences of the writers. As the audience enters the auditorium of the Baby Grand Studio, there’s chatter all round, snatches of conversation come over the speakers: “a friend brought it back from London”, “I heard my boy friend ..”, “a bag of sugar”, laughter, and this all mingling with comments from the audience as they look for their seats, “were are we?”, “Is this us?” It’s a clever idea and immediately gets us into the spirit of something bigger.

The lights dim and we’re into the world of three women telling their stories, strong stories, hard stories to take at times, funny and sad, devastating.
Brenda Murphy is an established award winning playwright and author, ‘A Night with George’ brought her work to a wide audience and was voted best new play at the First Irish Festival of Theatre 2011 in New York so it was no surprise that the story of her mother in ‘Two Sore Legs’ held us enraptured.

One woman and a coffin in the generic set featuring an ariel map of Belfast road system and a row of houses, then Maria Connolly as Bridget comes on stage, nods to the coffin and announces, “I died three days ago!” So the story unfolds, meeting a man up a ladder who fancies her, they get together and have six children, only problem is, he’s already married with a family. But she loves him. She asks us, “Will I tell you how we met?” and there’s an involuntary “Yes” from the audience. She tells of her isolation, her father’s anger, her mother’s support, the abuse from neighbours and the love of her children.

This is followed by ‘Picking up Worms’ by Dawn Purvis, the story of a young girl, (Kerri Quinn as Lisa) growing up with her brother and their friends in a street in Belfast. It’s the time of the Ulster Workers’ Council strike, the puzzlement of a telegraph pole splattered with black and white paint and feathers all round, the men gathering by the bridge, the neighbours keeping a watch, and the eight year old girl asking “what’s a taig?” The innocence of hop scotch and skipping fades away in the realisation of a changing life.

After the interval we have Jo Egan’s play, “Sweeties”. A child visits a pedophile and is rewarded with sweeties which she shares with her friend who waits outside. But the curiosity is too much and she peeps through the blinds and see what’s going on. The abuse lives in her memory and only comes to the surface in adulthood with devastating results. Kat Reagan and Rosie McClelland feature in this compelling play.

Although the entire cast and company are females, don’t loose sight that they are first and foremost professionals; this is no token evening but one to remember for the attention to detail, the set, the lighting, the acting and, of course, the writing. All is brought together by the award winning director Noreen Kershaw and I can do no better that quote from a note sent to me after the show from a man who says of her: “An amazing women, a brilliant woman. Her credentials go back a long way and I’ve been a fan for a long time. She’s worked on every major soap and drama series in British television. Her reputation precedes her and when you see her name on any programme you know it will be good. ”

And so it is.

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