Looking back and not forward

Helen Behan as Karen in Twinkletoes - the first of the Three Monologues staged by the Playhouse.
Helen Behan as Karen in Twinkletoes - the first of the Three Monologues staged by the Playhouse.

It was certainly one of the most adventurous productions of the City of Culture year - taking a minibus loaded with theatre goers to three different secret locations where they would see three monologues, written by Jennifer Johnston, performed on location.

Written as Johnston’s take on the Troubles - and in particular her take on the humanity of those caught up in our most turbulent years - Three Monologues is set in 80s Derry and her surrounds.

Taking the production on the road was a brave move. And it was at the first of the those secret locations where I caught up with actress Helen Behan as she performed the first of the monologues ‘Twinkletoes’ in a sparsely furnished room of an old house on Marlborough Street.

With tea in hand the audience sat waiting for the sounds of a woman singing, and stumbling - drunkenly - through the door before kicking off her shoes and launching into her monologue ‘Twinkletoes’.

Her’s is a story of a woman whose husband is an IRA prisoner and she is left dealing with a lonely life on the outside, feeling her life slip away from her.

It was a poignant piece - made all the more poignant by the setting of the large, lonely and cold house.

The hidden bottles of drink, the tears and the laughter and ultimately a woman left alone feeling she can’t move on, made for thought-provoking viewing.

So much is written about the bereaved, and those who lost their lives to violence, that it was interesting to think of those who lost the lives they should have led through circumstance - the families left behind, their lives on pause and so many missed moments.

While there were moments of humour, the overall mood of the piece was one of hopelessness and the sadness of the protagonist.

Such pieces have a place in our City of Culture programme.

This is our past - and reflective of the lives of many Derry women who saw their husbands and partners imprisoned. We can’t rewrite history or package it in a shiny box and pretend it wasn’t as bad as it was.

That said, as the final hurrah of the City of Culture programme from The Playhouse, who have brought us so many wonderful productions this year, I would have loved something with a more positive feel - forward facing rather than navel-gazing.

I was unable to follow the monologues on to their next destinations - a house in Carrigans, and finally a barn (where I believe blankets and hot water bottles were provided).

The bus trip to each of these locations was to a soundtrack of 80s music and radio reports from that era.

There is no doubt this was a production that many will talk about, and which will be a highlight for many. I cannot fault the actress, or the director or indeed the setting.But for me, the script was, at times, cliched and tired.

But I hope that innovative and unique productions like these will continue to come from The Playhouse in 2014 and beyond.