Elaine Murphy’s award-winning debut play is the story of a traumatic year in the life of three Dublin women.
Sixty-something Kay is struggling with the aftermath of her husband’s stroke. Her daughter Lorraine, long deserted by a feckless husband, is unexpectedly rescued from loneliness by a man she meets at a salsa class, while teenage granddaughter Amber is coming to terms with pregnancy.
Like Conor McPherson’s early play This Lime Tree Bower, the play takes the form of three interwoven monologues as each of the women takes it in turn to give her account of events. The relationship between the three narratives emerges only gradually, eventually leading to a warm and physical resolution.
Though in some respects it is a small piece, Little Gem touches on some big issues, taking in birth and death and addressing sex with a frankness evidently appreciated by a predominantly female opening night audience.
Murphy’s writing has much of the brisk earthiness and musicality that has given Irish theatre its special place in the world, while also drawing on a more recent tradition of women’s theatre most obviously represented by The Vagina Monologues.
Performed by three Dublin actresses of whom Anita Reeves, as the indefatigable Kay, comes closest to stealing the show, it is an entertaining slice of working-class Dublin life, if less startling than that early McPherson play. It will be interesting to see where Murphy, herself an established actress who has since written another short play for the Abbey Theatre, goes from here.
Until October 9