by David Hennessy
Tipperary playwright and actress Áine Ryan’s Kitty in the Lane is a dark but frequently funny tale of grief, isolation and trauma.
Being performed in London for the first time and also the way it was intended, Kitty in the Lane finds Áine’s main character in her kitchen.
Kitty is waiting for her boyfriend while her father dies in the room next door. She wishes they would both hurry up.
It is over the course of the show that Áine Ryan’s one woman show takes the audience through a tale of laughs and horror with a final shock that leaves you reeling, that it is a mere 70 minutes seems unthinkable by the finish.
In one hour and ten minutes, we see Kitty slowly but surely lose everything.
She has just lost her brother Dennis. With her mother out of the picture, this leaves her with just her father who has little time left to him although their relationship has always been difficult. Although he needs nursing and feeding now, Kitty does it begrudgingly if she does it at all.
It is while she is drowning her sorrows after burying Dennis that the audience are shocked by the story taking its darkest turn.
The only friend Kitty mentions throughout is Salisha who is competing in a local beauty pageant which is what Kitty is waiting for her boyfriend Robert to take her to, when he finally shows up.
Competitive with Kitty to a hilarious degree, Salisha is also selfish enough to scheme for Kitty to not entre the pageant herself.
Although Kitty had the dress, it would tragically only get one use.
It is Salisha who provides the comic relief with Kitty taking on her mannerisms- those of an airhead- and singing voice with a mocking tone.
Often funny in a dark way, it is Kitty’s deadpan and hilarious three word response to hearing that Salisha’s beloved dog Percy has run away that gets the biggest laugh of the night.
Kitty in the Lane comes swiftly after Paddy Goes to Petra which earned five star reviews at the Brockley Jack last year.
Although it was a one man show, that piece took the audience through a wealth of different locations with star Brendan Dunlea also taking on different characters.
Kitty in the Lane is similar. With the soundscape and subtle changes in lighting, Áine transports the audience from a kitchen to a nightclub and to the side of a country lane under the glare of headlights.
There are clear parallels with The Beauty Queen of Leenane with the lead character trapped with only a parent they are resentful of for company.
However, I also found the piece to be reminiscent of Martin McDonagh’s The Lonesome West.
Although that is a story of two warring brothers and some cartoonish violence, this also hints at the same rural isolation and its unhealthy effects.
While Paddy goes to Petra was about a man going to a new place and rediscovering a lust for life, Kitty wants to go nowhere.
However, she once had ambitions of going to America- a dream her father dismissed and seemed to be mentioned no more, making one more thing she has lost.
For better or worse, it seems Kitty will not make it out of the lane.
We interviewed Áine Ryan about Kitty in the Lane and its themes here.
Kitty in the Lane is showing at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH until 13 May.
To book or for more information, click here.