Review: Dolly West’s Kitchen

Dolly West's Kitchen. Pic: Comp
Dolly West's Kitchen. Pic: Comp
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IN the week following Ireland’s same sex marriage referendum, Leitheatre’s production of the 1991 Frank McGuinness play about an Irish matriarch and her sexually troubled family couldn’t have been better timed.

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Festival Theatre Studio, Potterrow

Dolly West, passionately played by Jane Black, is one of three siblings living with their mother Rima in Donegal just over the border during WW2, all of whom are forced to face up to the truth about their relationships when Rima invites Dolly’s ex-lover, a British officer, and two GIs into their home.

Star of the show is undoubtedly Irene Cuthbert as wise-cracking Rima, who delivers her one-liners with perfect timing in a role which has more than an echo of Brendan O’Carroll’s Mrs Brown and which pre-dated her first appearance on Irish radio by a year.

But the pivotal figure of the plot is Rima’s son Justin, again ably portrayed by Matthew Thomson, an Irish Army officer ostensibly twisted by hatred for the British but actually contorted by his repressed homosexuality and who finds happiness in his relationship with Iain MacDonald’s camp American soldier Marco.

This is a very strong show for an amateur company – some of the accents are a bit wobbly at times and the casting limitations are hardly the fault of the actors – but director Colin Peter handled the complex movements adeptly, the set works well and no-one fluffed their lines so it would be churlish to highlight weaknesses.

The play packs in as many themes about Irish Identity as is possible in a couple of hours – diaspora, partition, guilt about WW2 neutrality, sexuality, family, Church brutality – and in the end the central characters find peace of mind through brave, single-minded personal choice.

Ireland has only really come to terms with the dilemmas the characters face in the past 20 years and Ireland is a better place for it all.

Run ends Saturday