My Name is Saoirse

Outside of the almost factory-like default setting of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s one hour time-slot (long-since exported around the world), it actually feels somewhat odd to leave an Edinburgh theatre space after slightly less than 60 minutes. Even more so, when it doesn’t in any way feel like an hour has past; which, arguably, is the first praise writer and performer Eva O’Connor’s deserves to receive – time genuinely flies in her company and the characters she’s created.

it’s a beautiful, fascinating theatrical experience which will linger in your thoughts

First we have the somewhat lonely Saoirse, who lives with her farmer father and elder brother Brendan; her mother having died giving birth to her, Saoirse is beginning to realise that her dad is finding her physical similarity to his late wife almost impossible to bear. Second is her best friend and neighbour Siobhan – considered by many a bad influence and “Always a bit of a sore loser.” But she is Saoirse’s only escape from an increasingly distant male household; she is, suitable or not, a very-much-needed older sister.

Writer O’Connor portrays both girls at various stages of their lives, growing up in 1980s’ rural Ireland. She imbues Saoirse, our narrator, with a steady – at times almost-elegiac – tone; Siobhan, in contrast, is defined through explosive bursts verging on wild-child caricature. O’Connor’s vocal control is excellent; even a brief cameo of a nurse from Northern Ireland is given a distinctive, believable accent which grounds the character in our minds.

Much of O’Connor’s plot could be easily dismissed as nothing more than a rather predictable coming-of-age story in which, predictably enough, the more innocent Saoirse ends up taking a short trip to England for an abortion following a drunken one night stand with one of Siobhan’s “gentlemen” friends. Yet, O’Connor’s remarkably lyrical script deliberately chooses not to focus on any anguish that this good Catholic girl might have felt about choosing such an option. (That said, it’s all to easy to imagine the whole thing being immediately suggested and arranged by Siobhan.) Rather, our attention is kept on its longer-term affect on Saoirse as a young woman who, understandably, is desperate for her late mother’s approval, and must reach an important acceptance of her life.

Very much like the patchwork quilt O’Connor/Saoirse is sewing together at the start of the play, My Name is Saoirse is much more than the sum of its parts; it’s a beautiful, fascinating theatrical experience which will linger in your thoughts – and it takes just under an hour of your time.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

1987: Ireland has just won the Eurovision, mobile phones are about to be invented and, in Limerick, Saoirse O'Brien is sick of her best friend calling her a frigid. After agreeing to a night of drinking with the lads in Wilson's Pub, she discovers her pregnancy, and is forced to set out on a journey that leads her miles from home and the carefree adolescence she once knew.

Winner of First Fortnight Award 2014.

Eva O’Connor is one of the Traverse Fifty writers.

www.sundaysctheatre.co.uk / @SundaysCTheatre