An intense, poetic study of loneliness, cruelty and rural isolation,
It is essential that we nurture talent like Ryan’s: go and buy and ticket so that it may continue to grow.
An example: “the only calf I’ll be worrying about tonight is the one muscle-tight on me leg”. Áine Ryan’s text is Joycean in its playful linguistic dexterity, whilst its storytelling and sense of place belong to the tradition exemplified by Yeats.
In Rural Western Ireland, Ryan’s Kitty suffers at the hands of the men she encounters: a psychologically abusive father she is forced to care for; a boyfriend who abandons her on the night she needs him most; a policeman who wickedly takes advantage of her vulnerability. She is a fully realised tragic character, hopelessly aware of her inability to alter the influences upon her life. She bristles with intelligence and charm but is continually put down by those around her. Escaping from her small-minded, cruel and ignorant community is her only hope; her chance is taken away with bitterly simple finality.
Áine Ryan also performs this piece. Her Kitty – for this character is truly hers, and sharing her is an act of special generosity – is exquisitely wrought, her intensity tempered by whimsical reflection, her delicateness belying a streak of wild rage. Kitty’s damaged, wild-eyed fragility operates within a blanketing tension that is always threatening to break. It is a special performance, one that deserves to be sought out.
The ending of Kitty in the Lane will challenge any audience. I was left perplexed by it and instinctively felt that it undermined the piece’s subtlety. However, Kitty is a classic unreliable narrator; seen through this narrative prism it maintains its integrity despite threatening to eclipse the memorable scenes that precede it. Whilst it won’t work for everyone, it can be seen as the culmination of difficulty essential to this piece’s success.
It is rare to find a writer and performer whose gifts work together with such wonderful intensity and imagination. Seeing Kitty in the Lane will balance out much of the poxy, pointless theatre you will find this month; set aside a clear-headed, receptive morning and anticipate something that will leave you haunted. It is essential that we nurture talent like Ryan’s: go and buy and ticket so that it may continue to grow.