Kat Woods
W14 Productions in association with The Bunker
The Bunker Theatre

Aoife Lennon (Niamh) Credit: Craig Sugden
Aoife Lennon (Niamh) Credit: Craig Sugden
Aoife Lennon (Niamh) Credit: Craig Sugden

Killymuck begins with a birth. Niamh is born into the year of Thatcher becoming Prime Minister 1979, a year that would mark a new hostility to benefits and the poor. And Niamh’s family are poor. She describes herself as a “kid from the benefits system”, living among people dumped onto the Killymuck housing estate that was built on an Enniskillen pauper’s graveyard.

In a compassionate monologue that is often funny, Aoife Lennon plays Niamh telling the story of growing up in deprivation. Every so often, the story will pause, the house lights turn on and Aoife step out of her role as Niamh to sketch a political context. For instance, she points out that living in a deprived area can knock fourteen points off your IQ.

There are many things about Niamh’s school experience that couldn’t have helped. There is the time she is mocked en route to school in her old green coat as the “Fenian gypsy.” Her solution to that is to go to school without her coat and feel cold.

Her confidence is hit by her failure of the 11+, which takes her friend off to grammar school. Explaining why she could never get to grips with French, she says her family couldn’t afford a holiday never mind going to France, so what would be the point of learning French?

It isn’t as if her family didn’t have aspirations. Her dad is proud of the encyclopaedia they possessed and felt they could make something of themselves but his life took a turn for the worst as a result of a hit and run driver. Frustrated with his life, he became an alcoholic who was violent to his wife.

Bad things also seemed to happen to people around them. She recalls an older girl who sometimes looked after them killing herself, possibly because she was pregnant. And the woman living nearby who was generous to others was evicted for being a prostitute.

Niamh is likable and sympathetic, her story of the many small ways deprivation can hamper development utterly convincing. On a back screen, Aoife sketches a visual illustration of two contrasting ways of dealing with deprivation. A strategy of equality would allocate the same to each person. She draws three stick figures standing on the same size boxes to look over a wall. Unfortunately this means that the smaller stick figure cannot see over the wall. Better, says Aoife, to give out different sized boxes to achieve equity in which all can see over the wall. In society we can only achieve equity if the deprived are given what they need to be successful.

Her final words are, “challenge the norm. We can evoke change.”

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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