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My Name is Saoirse review at Just Festival

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Set in Ireland in the late 1980s, an unassuming girl comes of age. By her own admission, Saoirse is of little talent and her life is uneventful and, except for her attractive, wayward mate Siobhan, there’s not much around to lead her astray.

With every year she grows older and, though surrounded by family, friends and community, she’s floating through life yet enjoying it in her own quiet way.

That vulnerability exposes her to the teenage influence of Siobhan who is turning from precocious schoolgirl into party-loving school-leaver. And so Saoirse just seems to fall into getting pregnant and then taking the UK ferry for a secret abortion in London – remember that Ireland was even more draconian on abortion than it is today.

Performing her own script, Eva O’Connor plays out a gentle monologue that boldly avoids excess or moralising and is all the more powerful for it. She brings it to life with spot-on depictions of characters such as the feisty if louche Siobhan and the laid-back Northern Irish nurse at the clinic. What lets things down, however, is Hildegard Ryan’s direction, which is solo show done by numbers, limited to shifting otherwise static actor from point A to point B every five minutes.

Saoirse’s awkwardness becomes, well, just awkward and unfairly restrains O’Connor’s central narrator – for proof one need only witness how she lights up in the rare moments when she is permitted to move while speaking, offering a glimpse of the real potential of this promising production.

 

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Verdict
Static blocking hinders promise of poignant coming of age tale
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