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If your daytimes consisted of nothing more than screwing one piece of metal into another piece of metal on a factory production line, would you not resort to almost anything to relieve the tedium? Finding themselves in just this position, Charlene and Luce escape nightly to a world of vodka cocktails, cheap plonk, poppers, quickies in the car park and trouble. They really need to get out less.
Packed with raw energy and frighteningly believable, Kathryn O’Reilly’s debut play is a cautionary tale of two women, both having left their 30th birthdays behind them, who are trapped in a self-perpetuating downward spiral with no way out. In this environment they are past their sell-by dates, but they have no sense of purpose in their lives that could lead them in another direction. Charlene has the opportunity to start a relationship with factory foreman Paulo, but lacks the self-belief to go through with it and Luce deludes herself that she can gain promotions by offering sexual favours to bosses.
Director Sarah Meadows’ astute production shows an instinctive feel for when the characters need to be seen as comical or tragic or both and she draws out two perfect performances. Samantha Robinson’s Charlene has a touch of normality when she is sober, but she shows signs of alcoholism and transforms completely when drunk. She plays second fiddle to the extrovert Luce, a “looker” who Eloise Joseph makes an irresistible magnetic force. The club scenes are rowdy and raucous, projecting senses of futility and oncoming danger.
O’Reilly’s explicit dialogue pulls no punches, but early fears that the play may be content to revel in its own sauciness prove unfounded and she finds strands of compassion for the two women and for other characters. Stephen Myott-Meadows’ Paulo is a hard worker, dreaming of a new life in Russia, but exasperated by Charlene’s wayward behaviour. Derek Elroy brings touching dignity to the role of Doris, Luce’s transgender father who reaches out to both women in vain attempts to help them.
O’Reilly.s play is both funny and disturbing, showing lives that lie behind the statistics that tell us of increasing alcohol problems among women. The play needs tightening in several places, but, still, it is a piece of new writing rich with promise.
Performance date: 30 June 2016