THE small town of Buncrana, in Donegal, just over the border from Derry in Northern Ireland, is the setting for Frank McGuinness’ Dolly West’s Kitchen, which Leitheatre present at the Festival Theatre’s Studio space this week.
The year is 1943, having fled from Italy at the outbreak of war, Dolly West has returned to Ireland where she runs the family home for her mother Rima, sister Esther and husband Ned, and younger brother Justin, an officer in the Irish Free State Army and a fervent nationalist.
Questions of the neutrality of both Ireland and of the West household are raised when Rima invites three soldiers - Alec, an English officer and Marco and Jamie, two US troopers - from the war zone just across the nearby Eire/UK border.
Soon clashes of loyalty, jealousy, sexual identity and love creep in.
Officially neutral during the Second World War, old hatreds and suspicions still simmered in the Irish Republic and coloured attitudes on both sides.
McGuinness saw the arrival of British and American troops into Derry, just across the border in Northern Ireland, not only as an invasion of military presence but also an “invasion of sexuality”, as the soldiers made quite an impression in the town.
Exploring fractured family relationships, McGuinness stated that he “wanted to look at the impact of WWII and how it radically altered the characters’ perceptions of themselves and what they do with their lives”.
Described as “a deeply moving evocation of the fantasy and the reality that was Ireland in the 1940s”, Leitheatre’s Don Arnott is excited to be bringing the company back to the Festival Theatre’s Studio space.
“We were in The Studio in May last year and it is a good venue with excellent staff,” he says, explaining, “We have chosen that venue because it is smaller in capacity than Church Hill Theatre and trying to get a big enough audience up there in May has proved too difficult.
“An audience of 100 is lovely in The Studio, whereas in the Church Hill that number feels empty.”
Dolly West’s Kitchen, The Studio at Festival Theatre, Potterrow, tonight-Saturday, 7.30pm, £10, 0131-529 6000