by Elaine Murphy.

Bush Theatre above O’Neill’s Pub Shepherd’s Bush Green/Goldhawk Road To 22 May 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 1 May 2.30pm.
Captioned 15 May 2.30pm.
Runs 1ht 40min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 8743 5050.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 April.

Aptly titled family story.
Kennedy’s Children by Robert Patrick introduced the idea of building a play from intercut monologues in 1973. Three years laterCaryl Churchill used the structure in her English Civil War piece Light Shining in Buckinghamshire (soon to be revived at London’s Arcola Theatre).

Later, with familiarity came – not contempt, but the threat of tedium. Lining characters up to relate events began seeming a way to avoid dramatising action and developing characters through interaction. And how interesting is it to listen to people sit and talk for the best part of two hours?

Elaine Murphy’s Little Gem, brought from Dublin by Guna Nua and The Civic Theatre, proves there’s life in the oldish form yet. And age is key here. Little Gem is the baby born after a one-off night between teenage Amber and a boyfriend who’s leaving for Australia. In a sense, Gem replaces his grandfather, who has died following years of being nursed by Kay, his loving wife in a four decade-long marriage.

There’s renewal in the middle generation too as Lorraine casts away Depression following marriage to a drug-addict, dancing back to life with a friendship formed at a salsa session. Letting her hair down as she speaks, she steps from her tightly-strained existence, while young Amber moves from hedonism and its morning afters to a new sense of responsibility (it doesn’t come easily) with her baby.

Between them, source of their life and spirit, sits Kay. Her feeling of loss is more profound than anything the others have experienced, arguing a deeper level of love. Yet Murphy lightens her story with Kay’s sexual itch in her sixties (the itch, at least, is literal) and her farcical steps to satisfy it when her husband’s in no fit state.

Sarah Greene has the confident self-rightness of youth, Amelia Crowley moves from weary guilt to mischievous joy, while Anita Reeves switches between head-lolling sadness and cheeky delight. Finally, in Paul Meade’s well-contrasted and balanced production, Mark Galione connects the women, their three pools of separate light linked into a continuum, as their distinct lives are joined within a single family.

Amber: Sarah Greene.
Lorraine: Amelia Crowley.
Kay: Anita Reeves.

Director: Paul Meade.
Designer: Alice Butler.
Lighting: Mark Galione.
Sound/Music: Carl Kennedy.
AV Designer: Jack Phelan.

2010-04-22 02:24:25

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