When an elderly loved one prefers to live in the memories of the past, it often falls to their children and grandchildren to care for them in the present. Such is the case in Andy Arnold’s swansong as artistic director of The Arches, as Tom Murphy’s three-hander struggles with loss, family and responsibility.
In a 1980s roadside cottage in Galway, senile former seanchai, or storyteller, Mommo (Kay Gallie) spends each evening infuriating her two granddaughters with her never ending tale of a laughing competition long ago. In an evening of revelations and decisions, it seems the old woman’s story must finally be told.
Wrapping up the Arches Irish Classic season, Murphy’s lyrical nod to the great oral tradition of Irish storytelling serves also as a metaphor for the harsh realities of life facing women in West Ireland in the 1980s. Played out in front of Hazel Blue’s rotting yellowed cottage interior, Arnold simply goes through the motions here, failing to inject the life that made Translations so involving. Armed with language reminiscent of Synge and O’Casey, Kay Gallie’s Mommo valiantly tells her tale with detail and colour, but can’t provide the central character with the extraordinary verve required to make the repetitive text thrive. Muireann Kelly and Kathleen MacInnes as Mommo’s granddaughters, provide an arid truth that sensitively conveys the price we sometimes pay for our families, but despite moments of moving humour, the overall sensation is one of frustration for a production that might have been.