(Peter Crawley’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 6/29.)
Mourning is painful, cathartic and perilous to avoid. It’s something at which Ireland has long excelled, in outpourings of emotion, song, whiskey: it’s good, grief. But when burial rituals are not observed, as Antigone angrily discovered long ago and Vera O’Toole finds again in Tom Murphy’s masterful 1998 play, spirits are disturbed, society becomes riven, and neither the living nor the dead will ever rest in peace.
Returning to Galway from New York, Aisling O’Sullivan’s long-exiled Vera learns that the grandmother who raised her died long before she was told, and was left by her family in abject circumstances. “There was no wake,” says a concerned neighbour (Ruth McCabe). “There was an inquest.”
Thus begins Vera’s own riveting inquest, one that will brutally dispel her fantasy of a supportive family, spill the ugly truth of her life as a New York call girl, and expose the hypocrisy of late 1990s Ireland together with its shameful secrets. Only when the town has been scandalised by her flagrant bacchanalia will the past be laid to rest.
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