We Grew Up in the Back of a Van

We Grew Up in the Back of a Van is a fun and energetic show with a big heart.

t’s a fun piece of new writing well performed and well executed. Writer and director Katie-Ann McDonough, taking on the double job of writing and directing, demonstrates that the right person can clearly direct their own work well.

It’s a comical two hander performed with great energy by Charlton O’Connor and Charlotte Duffy. A fragmentary account of two sisters’ childhood, mostly spent in the back of their dad’s van, where swift turns and potholes are a recurring, bumpy problem. A black stage with boxes and toilet rolls, shaving foam and potatoes make up the set. Whilst the van is drawn on the floor with chalk. It’s simple and quirky and fits the tone of the script well.

There’s a joyous nostalgic quality about the play that is also often hilariously cringeworthy - as many things we remember from childhood often are. There’s a painfully funny shaving scene, a rather cruel but very funny game involving a suitcase and a set of stairs and a moment where the girls shoot at each other with potatoes. It’s distinctly and proudly Irish and a smart and engaging look at girlhood and growing up.

Another enjoyable aspect is the choreography. The girls’ synchronised moments work brilliantly as does the movement and particularly the sisterly battles. Fight Director Dominic Rose’s skills have been utilised to good effect and the physical squabbles are a very funny contribution to the show. Additional characters are imagined brilliantly by the comic duo including the girls’ infatuation – ‘The Boy’ mimed on a too cool for school, but not really cool at all, scooter. Then there is the sisters’ stern but sympathetic mum and a hilarious cross-eyed music teacher.

It’s a fun piece of new writing well performed and well executed. Writer and director Katie-Ann McDonough, taking on the double job of writing and directing, demonstrates that the right person can clearly direct their own work well. But there are a few improvements that should be made if the team want to take the piece elsewhere. The show opens and closes with a moment of drama, but we never fully understand what exactly happens and why. This needs to be fleshed out so the ending doesn’t seem so sudden. The show feels like it is building to something – but there is no full delivery of what that something is. Also moments of recorded speech don’t really work. They break up the flow of the piece and often get lost as you struggle to listen to a somewhat muffled and gimmicky recording. It would be more engaging if these moments were live like the rest of the show. Some lighting and timing also needs sharpening up to maintain the snappy fun that the script delivers.

But aside from these squabbles this is an enjoyable and solid piece of fringe theatre. Writer, director McDonough shows great creative flare, whilst O’Connor and Duffy have excellent chemistry and emit great energy and fun into this enjoyable Irish romp of childhood memories. It’s a fun and entertaining piece of theatre that, if sharpened up, could do very well at any fringe festival next year. 

Reviews by Dave House

Space Triplex / theSpace @ Surgeons Hall


theSpace on Niddry St

The Deer Johns: A Journey


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

A fragmentary collage of two sisters’ memories of their shared childhood overlap and coalesce in a nostalgically evocative and distinctively Irish play.

Written and Directed By Katie-Ann Mc Donough

Most Popular See More


From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Back to the Future - The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets


From £39.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets