Things are not going well for Brenda. The object of her affection, Olivia, does not appreciate the depth of her feelings for her. She’s spectacularly hungover and her period’s just come on – and come on strong.
Karen Cogan’s sometimes funny, sometimes bleak solo show explores the life of a gay woman in 1990s Cork and the ease with which a life can spiral out of control. Unable to move on emotionally from Olivia, trapped in a cycle of obsession and regret, Brenda is in danger of becoming “part of the furniture” in Cork: trapped, stuck.
Though loneliness permeates the play, the amiability of Cogan’s delivery of her own material keeps it from feeling unremittingly grim. Cogan has a strong grasp of the rhythms of her own writing.
Shortlisted for the Verity Bargate Award, the play contains vivid passages about the queasy, greasy feeling of surfacing after a night of excess (“even my gums are thirsty”) and about bodily messiness – the play is stained with menstrual blood and flecked with vomit.
Cogan’s play hinges on an epic bender in which Brenda gets catastrophically smashed. Anna Reid’s set, with its shabby sofa bed and three-bar fire, underscores the drabness of Brenda’s existence.
But Oonagh Murphy’s production, while always engaging and atmospheric, sometimes lacks a strong dramatic through-line, its emotional impact undercut despite the calibre of the writing.