This Piece of Earth
Irish famine tragedy
This article is from 2007.
Such is the scale of the mighty historical narratives of any country, that eventually, be it the holocaust, the war in Iraq or the Armenian genocide, it’s difficult to convey the enormity of the tragedy in pure numbers. So just as we’ve seen the events mentioned above turned into comprehensible human struggles among identifiable characters over the last couple of years, so Richard Dormer’s piece creates a human story from the Irish potato famine.
The famine play is a pretty familiar commodity in Ireland which has traditionally, and perhaps understandably, created a certain discomfort among British audiences, yet this piece breaks through for its love story alone.
In it, we meet a married couple (Lalor Ruddy and Claire Lamont) in a field, too weak it seems to continue their journey to the ship which might take them to safety. Their recollections of a village decimated by famine, their early romance and their current hopes for the future symbolised by her pregnancy are all given a tragic impetus by their enfeebled condition.
It’s a love story familiar enough in its emotional touchstones to create empathy, yet with sufficient historical authenticity to illustrate the political catastrophe at the play’s centre. The actors perform admirably, their shaking, twitching bodies working as a constant alarum of hope and despair, and Dormer is wise enough not to outstay the play’s welcome. A powerful and moving afternoon of theatre. (Steve Cramer)
Underbelly, 0870 745 3083, until 26 Aug, 5.25pm, £9–£10 (£8–£9).