The Recovery Position
Maria Kennedy & Caroline Byrne
Lion and Unicorn Theatre
A woman lies on the floor in the recovery position. Next door there is a party going on at which she's a guest. Two strangers are with her. Two men torn between a natural urge to assist her and an avoidance of getting involved. One is a sixty year old building worker who has gate-crashed the party, the other a yuppie young solicitor who is supposed to be making a speech at the party. The men realize the woman is pregnant, another layer is added to the story.
What is going to happen between these people? We seem set up for a tale of personal relationships and responsibilities. But that is not at root what interests Kennedy and Byrne. These three characters (like I imagine the writers) are Irish living in London and they are a metaphor for the Irish diaspora and its attitudes to Ireland. As the older man, who says he has "built and broke concrete all over London" and "left a piece of ourself with every brick" and the young solicitor who wants to "compete in a world class city" discuss what to do about the woman, it becomes a discussion of their attitudes to Ireland and the woman comments as though she is a personification of the country. As both mother-to-be and nation she admits she's been having a good time, taking advantage, and now the party's over, just like the one they came to, she's lumbered.
Should one return and work for Ireland's recovery or make a life abroad? It sets an idea of Nationalism and duty against a personal opportunism but while the romantic old feller, warmly played by Peter Cadden, is struggling to remember a poem (it is Patrick Cavanagh's "Every Old Man I See") it is the materialistic solicitor who remembers it word perfect.
This short play doesn't take the discussion very far as it laments "too many broken Irish families scattered all over the world" or questions whether Ireland might have been better to stay British. The writing is at its best in suggesting the loneliness and insecurity of the older man. Patrick Doyle and Kate O'Rouke have much less in the script to help create their characters and despite their efforts they stay ciphers.
As director Caroline Byrne stages it very simply. Three long benches and an aluminium stepladder seem to be symbols rather than furniture, but of what in what might be an anteroom outside time? She gets committed performances from her players that hold the audience for its forty-odd minutes but the play ends before the discussion has really got started.
Reviewer: Howard Loxton