Like many one-person narratives, Kitty in the Lane only provides the audience with a single perspective on what is otherwise an engaging storyline. Quite how Kitty’s (Áine Ryan) father, brother Dennis, boyfriend Robert or (sort of) best friend Saleisha truly sees things remains an enigma, and as for Kitty herself, you’d be hard-pressed to encounter another character quite like her on stage any time soon. Somewhere in rural Ireland, at least a couple of miles away from anything else – no exaggeration, apparently, but it becomes clear during the show that Kitty is essentially an unreliable narrator – is where she makes her home. At some point, her father becomes too frail to oversee the farmwork, so it falls to the younger generation.
But this isn’t a quiet country girl just accepting her lot in life working the fields, milking cows and so on: there’s talk of a pageant, and purchasing suitable (that is, custom-made) attire for it. Kitty’s experiences reveal that rural living can be just as brutal as urban living, and sometimes even worse, if only because witnesses to anything untoward is likelier in a city centre than it is in the middle of ‘nowhere’. When Saleisha suggests going to the police to report a crime, Kitty has her reasons for not doing so – and they are, in context, fair enough.
A large number of wooden beams are dotted around the stage, vertical but at an angle, giving the feel of a barn or a farmhouse, though Florence Hand’s sound design does more to create a sense of eeriness or foreboding, subtly and effectively.
While Kitty suffers substantially in myriad ways, she retains a sense of humour, which in turn provides comic relief, and while there’s much to praise in Ryan’s energetic and masterful performance, going through a wide range of human emotions, it’s all rather exhausting to watch. But if a show is going to pile on the misery, it might as well do it with style, which is precisely what this production does. Moments (well, seconds, really) of silence work well, giving the audience chances to briefly reflect and take in what has transpired on stage.
While it both felt like and did go somewhat over the advertised seventy-five minutes, it’s evenly paced – any faster and it would have felt a tad too relentless. There’s a harrowing demonstration of the idea that ‘hurt people hurt people’ – Kitty, at several points in her young life a victim, later sees her chance to inflict some damage herself, and this too is hardly a comfortable watch. Kitty’s perpetrators of abuse (of various kinds) are all men, though I still wouldn’t class this as a feminist play, given who she goes on to act against herself. It’s intense as much as it is intriguing, and a performance well worth seeing.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Kitty in the Lane written by Áine Ryan
Directed by Jack Reardon Lighting Design by Alex Forey Set Design by Constance Comparot Sound Design by Florence Hand Sounding and Lighting Operator Scarlett Bryan
Produced by Studio Perform Theatre and Xinyou Zhang
Cast: Áine Ryan
Tuesday 2 – Saturday 13 May 2023 at 7.30 pm Running time: 70 minutes with no interval