We are not all born equal. Some of us are born into a life where we automatically have less: less money, less support and, crucially, less opportunity. These two powerful one-woman plays explore the political cause and effect of what being born with less means.
Kat Woods’ Killymuck, starring Aoife Lennon (Mule, Edinburgh Festival, Clapham Omnibus and tour) and directed by Caitriona Shoobridge, offers an insight into how growing up on a council estate affects the present and informs the future. While Box Clever by Monsay Whitney, starring Redd Lily Roche and directed by Stef O’Driscoll, confronts us with the repercussions of systemic failure in politics to care about the benefits and working class.
Killymuck is a housing estate built on a paupers’ graveyard in 1970s Ireland. Inspired by real events from Woods’ upbringing, this reworked and exciting production sees Niamh navigate the trials and tribulations of being from the benefit system. Educational barriers, impoverishment, depression and lack of opportunities conspire against the struggle to escape the underclass stereotype.
Through Killymuck, Woods strives to show the real poverty and hardships experiences growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Woods feels increasingly uncomfortable with the ‘Oirish’ cliché that we so often see on stage and, here, she brings to life Northern Ireland as a post-conflict society in which mental health issues, PTSD, suicide, poverty, addiction and violence are the everyday realities for many of the population.
Woods comments, There is a forgotten segment of society that we never talk about when it comes to the arts – the lower classes. The underclass. The benefit class. I am from that background and this piece is based on true events inspired by my own narrative. These stories need to be told and need to find representation on stage. We are in danger of theatre becoming an elitist domain. Let’s create theatre for all not just the few. Killymuck is my battle cry.
Each night audiences will also have the opportunity to see Box Clever – this moving, truthful and darkly comic play tells of one woman’s experience of a refuge and a mother’s commitment to do the best for her daughter. Ever get the feeling you’re going around in one big circle? Back and forth between a trio of arseholes and nothing to show for it except a baby, an Argos ring and a busted nose. At the refuge they call that a pattern.
Box Clever asks why there isn’t a ‘duty of care’ towards the safety and protection of adults and children in refuges. Austerity cuts have real and direct consequences on people’s lives; we witness Marnie’s struggle as she has been left without any options and is now fighting for survival with only the tools she has. What is Marnie meant to do?
Director of Box Clever, Stef O’Driscoll comments, This is a story that is happening right now and it is important people know this is going on. But, what are we going to do? What action can we take to support women who find themselves failed again and again by systems designed to support them. What happens when the safety nets of housing, police, social care and refugees are no longer supporting our most vulnerable of society? The decision to make this a one woman show is to highlight the struggle for survival that Marnie goes on to keep her and her daughter safe. She is on her own, there is no assistance from anyone playing other characters, she is carrying the weight of telling her story. She has nobody else to rely on but herself.
These two plays are presented in double-bill format with a shared production design that emphasises the conversation that both plays are engaged in about the benefit class, a conversation that takes place across decades and different cultural backgrounds.