Forde Photo: SoHo Playhouse
by Deirdre Donovan
Colette Forde’s Innit
and Eavan Brennan’s Get the Boat, now in repertory at the SoHo
Playhouse, are the inaugural productions of the venue’s new global initiative
to stage works written by emerging new female playwrights. The two
aforementioned plays are by Irish women and were featured at the Limerick
Fringe Festival this past year. Both plays tackle pertinent social issues viewed
from a woman’s perspective.
The solo play Innit,
directed by Forde, is the more cohesive of the two offerings. Set in Manchester in the ‘90s, we meet the teen Kelly Roberts (ably performed by Forde) as she
confides in a psychologist for the first time. As the lights go up, we see
Kelly at center stage sitting in a plain straight-backed chair, reluctantly
unpacking her troubled heart to a psychologist. We learn about her
working-class background, dysfunctional family, and intense feelings of
revisits a lot of painful memories. She recounts how her alcoholic father
frequently would break his promises to her as a young child. Case in point,
Kelly would patiently sit by the phone, waiting for her father to call and take
her to a promised movie. When the phone remained silent, her mother would
bluntly tell her that her father probably had a hangover and had forgotten
about their father-daughter movie date. Then to rub salt into the wounds, her
mother cruelly would tell her young daughter that she would “amount to
It’s easy to
pigeon-hole Kelly as a rebel without a cause. But, fortunately, Forde
scratches beneath the surface of her character’s rough edges and reveals a
sympathetic character. The teen might use crude street language to describe
her life and experiences. But she becomes more likable as the monologue
unfolds and we learn that she aspires to be an artist (she already sings solos
at old-age homes with the choir).
The play is
punctuated with fragments of dance routines projected on a large screen. This
adds a lot of energy to the piece and ensures that it doesn’t become an
instance of mere adolescent naval-gazing.
If there is anything
to quibble about in the production, it’s that the protagonist’s working class
dialect is hard to decode at times. Words like “slag” (think loose woman) and
the peculiar title “Innit” (a conflation of the phrase “isn’t it”) won’t
immediately register with an American audience.
That said, one
eventually can get the gist of what Kelly is saying after the first 10
minutes. Forde employs enough body language and facial expressions to drive
her meaning home, even if her vocabulary is sometimes unfamiliar (and often
vulgar). Although the monologue ends with the heroine in a kind of limbo, the
journey we take with Kelly invites us to revisit our teen years when we were
betwixt and between adult and child.
Eavan Brennan and Siobhan Donnellan Photo: SoHo Playhouse
The second offering, Get
the Boat, under the aegis of the Holy Show Theatre Company, seems more of
an experimental piece than a fully-realized production. It is a study
of Ireland’s 8th Amendment (In 1983, equal rights were given
to a mother and her unborn child in Ireland’s constitution) and the heartache
it creates for Irish women who believe they should have more say about their
by Ruth Smith, the two-hander allows you to eavesdrop on the conversation of
two pregnant Irish women, Grainne and Bridget (Eavan Brennan and Siobhan
Donnellan) traveling on a ferry overseas to get abortions. When they first
meet, neither woman knows that the other is pregnant. But as they share
secrets in their double berth, their mutual pregnant condition—and intentions
to terminate their pregnancies--become known.
the play will potently speak to new millennial Irish women, it also will
resonate with Americans who see how the national debate on abortion has
reshifted under the Trump administration. It’s no secret that conservative Republicans
are currently trying to find ways to defund Planned Parenthood clinics in
our country without requiring an act of Congress.
The play’s drab set,
lighting, and costumes accurately reflect the bleak situation of Grainne and
Bridget’s pregnancies. Grainne, married with two children, learned from her
doctor that she was carrying a fetus whose organs were growing outside its
body. The doctor vaguely spoke of “options” to Grainne—and left it at that.
Bridget, a single mom
with a 7 year-old son, had an affair with her married boss and got impregnated
by him. Learning the news of her pregnancy, her boss insisted that she get rid
I will refrain from
telling you more about the play, except that there’s a lot of finger-pointing
between Grainne and Bridget. It seems that both women oddly like to inflict
guilt on the other for seeking an abortion.
considered, Innit and Get the Boat are contemporary morality
plays that underscore the #metoo and #Ibelieveher movements. Whereas the
former production has more dramatic muscle, the latter spearheads a crucial
national debate on abortion. And with the recent May referendum introduced to
change Ireland’s 8th Amendment, Get the Boat points up just
why the 8th Amendment sorely needs to be reconsidered today.
At the SoHo Playhouse, at 15 Vandam Street, Manhattan.
For tickets and more
information, phone (212) 691-1555 or visit www.SoHoPlayhouse.com.
Running time of Innit:
75 minutes with no intermission
Running time of Get
the Boat: 50 minutes