Between Trees and Water at South Studios

September 13, 2014

Painted Bird Productions’ Between Trees and Water is an unwaveringly grim piece of testimonial theatre, and we are all the better for it, dealing as it does with the death of a young Irish woman from an illegal abortion. Set during the 1930s and drawing on the real life passing of Bridie Kirk, the woman at its centre barely gets a word in as friends, family, lovers and medical professionals point the finger, absolving themselves of responsibility and painting a picture of the ‘young girl, 25-26 years old’, dabbing from a pallet of their own prejudice.

Abortion is a hot button topic in this country, as is our horrid treatment of young women, but Painted Bird aren’t stoking any flames with incendiary comment. They let documented facts speak for themselves as newspaper reports, court testimonials, medical documents and sworn affidavits are delivered with cool detachment by a cast of five, the only mood indicator Tom Lane’s weary score, the pulse of which sounds like a wooden metronome( the gavel of catholic influenced judgement, perhaps?)

Dressed in period clothing, modern theatre techniques are used to keep not only realism at bay but also it’s story current, and the arrangement of the book of evidence by Fiona McGeown summons Maeve Binchey’s Ireland before us, a world of motor cars, races, the glamour of stockings, while lynching out from under it the ugliness of a John B Keane.

Harsh denouncement are made on all the characters, but the execution of the soundscape, the movement and Sarah Jane Shields’ lighting capture vividly how trapped they all were by the bottleneck hypocrisy of Catholic Ireland, which results in a hemorrhage of morality we’re still spazzing out from 75 years on.

Bridies death is blood strewn, a fact that manifests it’s self physically on the actors, but also throughout the script, portraying the violent horror that has been inflicted on women throughout the history of the state.

As this production determinately states, while their names may be redacted, beeped out and buried,they must not be forgotten.


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