Sat in her farmhouse kitchen Kitty (Áine Ryan) is waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up and take her to the local pageant. Kitty is dressed up, her sleek blue dress appearing out of place with the farmhouse and with the atmosphere shown. She takes us through various aspects of her life, her ill-treatment from and of her elderly father, the death of her brother, and the ways that rural life and isolation have affected her.
The farm is out in really rural Ireland, over two kilometres down a lane. Her friend Saleisha is the only other girl in her class; they may be friends by necessity rather than choice. Her boyfriend, Robert, is a delivery man who once brought a parcel to the lane. This rurality is embraced by Constance Comparot’s set design, which places Kitty’s kitchen literally in a lane with the floor showing fields and the small tyre paths that make up the track. Wooden beams angled through the set to show the farm are accentuated with smoke, haze and fantastic lighting from Alex Forey. Headlights in the lane and a pumping nightclub all fit into this small space. Music and an underlying soundscape from Florence Hand combine with the set to bring a constant atmosphere both looking and feeling like the pressure is pushing down – hard. The technical work put into this production is unequivocally top-notch.
Ryan gives an intense and vivid performance. Working from her own script, the language is stylised, at times poetical, and every word and each movement is very deliberate with clear thought and intent behind absolutely everything. The script is dark, occasionally bleakly funny, triggering ripples of laughter through parts of the audience. Kitty is badly affected by her mistreatment at the hands of the men in her life, and by the much pointed to rural isolation. Ryan’s script and performance leans into this, keeping the audience on edge with a high level of tension. It does also provide a challenge to the audience, as Kitty is hard to relate to. It takes effort to identify the moments that disclose the woman that Kitty could and should have been, and empathise with her. It is a focused and intimidating performance to which Ryan more than commits. Her complete change at the end as she takes a bow, and we see her real smile and own movement is such a contrast, underlining the intensity of her performance.
Kitty in the Lane slowly reveals itself as a horror story. The isolation and abuse have taken a toll on Kitty, leading to a shocking finale that supplies a further challenge to the audience and leaves us questioning what has gone before. At times a difficult watch and slightly uncomfortable throughout, this is a powerful evening with a performance and production hard to forget.
Written by: Áine Ryan
Directed by: Jack Reardon
Lighting Design by: Alex Forey
Set Design by: Constance Comparot
Sound Design by: Florence Hand
Produced by: Studio Perform Theatre
Kitty In The Lane plays at Jack Studio until 13 May. Further information and bookings can be found here.