Four Last Things

Lisa Tierney-Keogh's Four Last Things is an evocative, but turbid, journey through the Irish country landscape and all unspoken things. Somewhere close to Galway and far from her college in Dublin, is the family farm where protagonist Jane (Jane McGrath) ponders an unthinkable act. She can't speak to her father (Eamonn Hunt) about the torment inside her and neither can her father find the way to say the words inside him. Told as alternating monologues between Jane, her father and Bob (Moe Dunford)...the family dog, the play slowly winds its way to its eventual conclusion.It is clear, straight away, that Jane is in trouble. She can't find comfort at home, she can't find comfort in herself. “I want to be normal, I want to be loved” she says. She sees the countryside as oppressive, sees the crows and not the swans. She would swap the barn for any building in Dublin, remembers walking past Stephen's Green with her beau, Mark, and the tingling down her spine as he said to her “I'm going to kiss you before we reach the corner”. She describes her experiences through an emotional tunnel, but otherwise like any other young woman on the threshold of a full life. But something tugs at her, leading her towards her dark end. What that is exactly, the darkness in her, is never explored or probed sufficiently, so we never find out. She is loved, even in unspoken ways, by her father and overtly, by Mark, who drives down from Dublin to see her. Her father is out of his depth – as anyone would be – with depression. Mr. Hunt's characterisation is thoroughly believable. He has a quiet, sublunary way to him as those who work the land do. You get the impression that nothing would have made a difference, that Jane is somehow fated.The family sees Janes sadness and bring her to a mental health clinic for a week but returns none the better. This is a disturbing truth about suicide that even with the best help available, not everyone can be saved from the jaws of depression. Even the dog sees it coming. Now, I need to address this speaking dog business. Yes, he brings some humour to the situation from his lively, canine view of farm life and Mr. Dunford communicates this in a fine, unaffected way. What is odd, however, is that he claims to have spoken to her directly on two ocassions. That would certainly indicate a problem for the young girl – if she heard him (from the audience point of view, she did). The audience can take a dog speaking from within but not a talking dog unless it's set-up a la Dr. Doolittle. As soon as the dog described a bubble rising up from within releasing a human word, the play started to sink.But the central problem with this work is a straightforward one of drama. We see the end coming very quickly and have nothing to do but hear eloquent descriptions and digressions into country life and young love, until it does arrive. We have no clue why she took her life – just that she was depressed, otherwise we listened to a detailed description of a troubled, yes, but fairly normal life. You may argue that this reflects the essential tragedy of suicide, that family and friends are left behind with a lifelong sorrowful mystery, trying to figure out what happened and what they could have done. But the victim is on stage and speaks. Ms. Tierney-Keogh could have used this opportunity to delve into the terrifying world of depression and bring some clarity to the journey the audience is taking in her play. It is a sad, terrible end for Jane – but dramatically it is an emotional manipulation of the audience, given what preceded it, and nothing more. This work would be better suited to the short story format or perhaps, with some tweaking, a radio play. Not even the perfect setting of an old church could help raise this play beyond melodrama.

The Blurb

Janey is dropping out. Of college, of friends, of life. Stuck on her family farm, yearning for Dublin, she wants to swap the green fields for a concrete jungle and the endless quiet for a ceaseless noise. With a father she can’t talk to, and a dog that can’t talk back to her, Janey bows out and chooses no to life. This is an emotionally charged journey through the last days of a young woman’s battle with herself. An achingly true play that vigorously explores our most secret beliefs, the Four Last Things that are death, judgement, heaven and hell.