Kate McBrearty reflects on her experience at the Dublin Fringe Festival, witnessing the account of the Kerry babies case in Efficacy 84.
This original piece devised and directed by Luke Casserly, which ran in Smock Alley Theatre, highlighted the 1984 “Kerry Babies” case in Co.Kerry. The case, which remains unsolved to this day, surrounded the discovery of a newborn baby boy on White Strand beach in Caherciveen, and the subsequent tribunal investigation of the behaviour of the Gardaí in the case.
With a simple and minimalistic set design, the play relied heavily on the characters’ interactions and thoughts, delivered in monologues throughout the play. Joanne, the protagonist who is revealed to be the mother of the deceased child, opens with a short account addressing the audience of the sea as a scar on the face of the Earth.
At times the script seemed disjointed, with the monologues lacking coherence from character to character, however, it eventually becomes clear that the characters are attempting to piece together what took place in the 1984 case; similar to the actions of the real Gardaí. It was at this point the actors used their own names, with the exception of Joanne, who continued to stare intently at the audience. This unsettling breaking of the fourth wall conveyed how much the events have affected the character and made the audience contemplate the fallout of the case on Joanne as a person accused of murdering her own child.
The play concluded with the director inviting the audience to join the cast on stage to “dance the dance the Kerry Babies never got to dance.” Efficacy 84 is a poignant and insightful play about a tragic event, for which Siofra O’Meara was nominated for the Best Performers Award at the Dublin Fringe festival.