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No More Workhorse: When Rachel Met Fiona – The Space – Review

When Rachel Met Fiona – The Space – Review by Hugh Maguire

Dates – 28 Sep – 2 Oct

Colette Cullen is an award-winning Irish playwright. Her new piece is coming to the end of an all-too short run at The Space on London’s Isle of Dogs. The scale and casual nature of the venue added to the intimacy of the play which almost had the impact of us eavesdropping on the private sphere, or listening to what’s going on next door – not that we would.

A short, seamless performance presented as a series of vignettes allowing us to recreate the time and space in between, we follow the relationship of the lesbian couple from initial closeness (hints of jealousy), through marriage, and the challenges and (possible) pitfalls of surrogacy, drifting apart, and essentially the curve of life itself. The focus is on the intimate life of Rachel and Fiona, but of course the strength of the piece is that it explores the weft and eave of close relationships in general. The play is not presented for laughs but we nonetheless smile knowingly or smirk at the odd line as we know the situation all too well – ‘where is my shirt for the meeting?’ And in our heads we are saying ‘get your own (expletive) shirt’. Cullen has captured the little petty instances that accumulate to create a sense of grievance in relationships, the irritating little jealousy over previous or other friends, that simply irritates – that sucking bitter lemon feeling. And while the surrogacy may be an issue most pertinent and challenging to lesbian couples the issues of parenthood and who takes care and responsibility for rearing is common to all.

The locale is not defined and while there are references to trips to New York and Paris we do not know which city we are in – although with references to the price of property and names like Niamh and Caoimhe we may presume affluent middle-class Dublin. For this production we were in affluent London, and the Dublin origin was probably only noted by this viewer. The visit to The Space had the added benefit of a rehearsed reading of the follow-on narrative (with the same actors). Not only was the writing stronger but we could see the characters evolve and change, the certainties and irritations of their earlier selves morphing into new people buffeted by the storms of life itself but still standing. Hopefully, a fully staged performance of both pieces, back-to-back, will be possible, and the double portions will only add depth to the enjoyment of a solid piece of work well worth seeing.

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