And the Rope Still Tugging Her Feet

If you’re hoping to see one performance completely stripped bare this festival, make it this one. And the Rope Still Tugging Her Feet is a one-woman show detailing the shocking Kerry Babies’ Scandal. It opens with Leanne Grey standing accused of murdering a newborn baby in 1980s Ireland and Caroline Cooke Burns, under the direction of James Watkeys, adopts a number of different roles to tell Grey’s story of injustice.

The rate at which Cooke Burns can make you laugh and bring you to tears is staggering.

Everything about the show is simple. The intimate venue is very atmospheric and creates a strong sense of secrecy. The only prop is a glass of water and the only costume is a long plain black dress. Even lighting effects are used only occasionally to show a change of scene, for example flashing coloured lights combined with some ambiguous dancing represents a Christmas party. This completely stripped back approach to theatre is refreshing and it lets the tale of the Kerry Babies’ Scandal take centre stage.

I simply can’t fault Cooke Burns’ characterisation. Every single character of the piece (and there are quite a few!) is adopted with energy and gusto and there is never any confusion as to who she is playing. Her roles include a police officer, the father of the baby and the mother of the accused. There is sudden contrast as Leanne’s story approaches its climax when Cooke Burns suddenly switches into the bolshy persona of Kate, the feminist lesbian. Using dark humour, this character gives some context to Leanne’s situation, outlining the complex legal system which made both contraception and abortion impossible. The rate at which Cooke Burns can make you laugh and bring you to tears is staggering and the audience is putty in her hands.

The experiences of these women have been buried in history for a long time. And the Rope Still Tugging Her Feet digs up their stories and examines the “tsunami of secret griefs” behind them through Leanne. I was angered, moved, entertained and educated, which is pretty impressive for one woman on a stage.

Reviews by Carla van der Sluijs

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Performances

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The Blurb

And the Rope Still Tugging Her Feet was inspired by 1984's Kerry Babies scandal. A dark, comic take on a time in Ireland when 'the most dangerous place to be was in a woman's womb' (Bishop Joseph Cassidy). Written and performed by award-winning writer and actress Caroline Burns Cooke (Best Actress ECU European Independent Film Festival for MYRA; Best Feature screenplay for She Moved Through the Fair from Scottish Screenwriters), and directed by Colin Watkeys of Face to Face Festival, director/dramaturg of legendary performers Ken Campbell, Claire Dowie and Jack Klaff.

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