Perma-austerity: Killymuck and Box Clever @bunkertheatreuk
The Bunker is currently presenting a double bill of what life is like for women in Britain with less opportunity. The two monologues chart growing up in different eras of inequality. But both are gripping as they mix anger, evocative storytelling and humour in equal measure. They're terrific pieces of writing with strong performances.
First up is Killymuck, written by Kat Woods. Niamh (Aoife Lennon) is living on a housing estate that was the site of a paupers graveyard in 1970s Northern Ireland. Locals think the estate is cursed. But there are plenty of real-life causes to her problems. Her mum is surviving on benefits. Her dad suffers from alcoholism. Teachers at school are only too keen to discriminate, even if she is clever. And violence is never far away.
There's salvation with the occasional babysitting job. Particularly with the neighbour when she's out turning tricks as she pays better than anyone.
Lennon conveys the passion, anger and humour of Wood's text. It's part performance and part argument about how little support Northern Ireland receives. Particularly as a post-conflict society where mental health issues and suicide remain high. It's passionate and convincing throughout.
After the interval, we meet Marnie (Redd Lily Roche) in Box Clever. She's fled to a woman's refuge in present-day London with her young daughter. Her boyfriend just broke her nose. Dripping blood, writer Monsay Whitney isn't interested in making Marnie a horror story. Soon the audience is in hysterics hearing about her life and the men in it. But with social services stretched to breaking point, a series of events will soon envelop and suffocate her.
Roche deftly handles the comic and horror moments of the piece and is engaging throughout. The final moments where she turns to the audience asking "what do I do?" seem all too desperately real. Her young daughter, depicted using a balloon, underscores the fragile state of her world.
Provocative and exciting new writing at The Bunker. Killymuck is directed by Caitriona Shoobridge. Box Clever is directed by Stef O'Driscoll. The double bill alternates on various nights and is at The Bunker until 13 April.
Photos by Craig Sugden