With another Dublin Fringe Festival come and gone, Emma Kiely reviews one of its highlights.
After earning rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and London’s Vault Festival in 2017, Irish playwright Erica Murray’s The Cat’s Mother ran for four nights during Dublin’s Fringe Festival, and it was spectacular.
Ciara (Sarah Madden) is a self-absorbed twenty-something year old who lives a fabulous life in London, far away from her sister Sinéad (Eimear O’Riordan) and their mother, who is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease in Kilfenora, County Clare. Ciara’s life is thrown into disarray when Sinéad shows up at her apartment with their mother and confesses that she can no longer look after her, as she has put her whole life on hold and wants her freedom. This is when we see that Ciara has totally ignored the troubling situation and Sinéad has done all the work. With no father in the picture, no savings and a house that has actually been rented all their lives, they have no way of affording assisted living. Sinéad then makes a further confession to Ciara; she wants to kill their Mum.
This dark film is about as comically bleak as you can get. You’ll be laughing equally hard at Sinéad’s absurd ideas and Ciara’s relatable narcissistic ways while also being deeply troubled by the bleakness and sadness of the girls’ position. At heart they are average, everyday young girls with no savings and no life plan, scared of the future and unknown. Yet, Sinéad has had to put all of her plans aside to care for a mother who hits her and thinks she is an absolute stranger. This causes some deep underlying tensions between the sisters, and Ciara is faced with an ultimate decision, to save a mother who doesn’t recognise her, or help her sister gain freedom and her own life.
This dark film is about as comically bleak as you can get
Madden and O’ Riordan bounce off each other perfectly, representing two different figures of Irish youth. The one that couldn’t get out of their hometown fast enough, has four soy milk lattes a day and goes to a personal trainer, representing the new millennial way of living. Then there’s your simple Irish country girl who yearns for freedom yet fears it when it manifests in the form of life-altering change. When Ciara suggests she move to Dublin, Sinéad fearfully replies “Oh, it’s too far”. Ciara asks “far from what?”, visibly confused, which is a heartbreaking moment where the girls realise that by getting rid of their mother, they’d be getting rid of their home.
A fantastic cast is topped off by the painfully funny Kate Kennedy, who plays an array of characters from a rude ‘Pret’ barista, to a lawyer who still lusts over her short-lived relationship with Ciara (yes she’s gay, and it’s not a big deal!). Kennedy is electric in the play and will definitely become a recognisable face in the Dublin theatre circuit soon enough.
With a truly heartbreaking tragedy at its core, the witty dialogue and hilarious performances cannot compensate for its sad, bleak plotline
With a truly heartbreaking tragedy at its core, the witty dialogue and hilarious performances cannot compensate for its sad, bleak plotline. It raises many questions regarding morality, family and life choices. The play shows that putting family members before yourself isn’t always that easy and may test the limits of a person’s selflessness. The unsettling ending will undoubtedly have you running out of the theatre ringing your mum, never needing to hear her voice more. With stellar performances, a plot that raises important questions and some hilarious lines, Erica Murray’s The Cat’s Mother is the bee’s knees.