EFR - Reviews of Killymuck

Killymuck

Wed 1st – Tue 28th August 2018

reviews

Olivia Cooke

at 09:30 on 13th Aug 2018

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I honestly don’t think I have the right words to articulate how brilliant Kat Woods’ production of ‘Killymuck’ actually is. This autobiographical memoir depicts Woods’ own experiences growing up as a child living below the poverty line. Carried off by the amazing performance of its sole cast member Aoife Lennon, ‘Killymuck’ acts as a pertinent piece of social commentary which asks us how far have we really come in counteracting class-based injustices against both the working and underclasses.

Through personal childhood memories, Woods’ tale depicts the cyclical nature of poverty by focusing on the way in which day-to-day difficulties become major obstacles for an impoverished family. We see how this affects Woods’ own education: in a fit of nervous hysteria, Lennon chants repeatedly: “Pass the exam. Go to the grammar. Get a good education. Get a good degree. Get out of this shithole life.” Wracked by the pressure of having to pass the 11+ in order to give her family a new life, Woods (Lennon) physically breaks down in a heart-wrenching scene.

‘Killymuck’s minimal use of props and tech draws our attention closer to the moving narrative relayed by Lennon. This no frills or fuss approach to the running of the production enhanced Lennon’s sporadic social commentaries, which folded shocking sociological stats and theories into its narrative. We learned that just by living in poverty, children could knock off 14 points from their IQ before they left school. Additionally, Lennon conveyed the important message that such socio-economic barriers create barriers to learning. Woods does not learn French because it seems impossible that herself and her family will ever travel. The lack of both cultural and educational opportunities leaves Woods’ character stuck in a quagmire of self-loathing. Lennon remarks, “I felt shit […]. I had nothing. ” This comment perfectly encapsulated the helplessness of Woods’ character against all the socio-economic hurdles stacked against her.

‘Killymuck’ is a fantastic production, which makes multiple justified critical commentaries on the class-system in Northern Ireland and the UK. Lennon’s stunning performance coupled with Woods’ brilliant script and direction creates an hour of pure theatrical perfection. The most important show you’ll see at the Fringe this year, and a production you’ll definitely not want to miss.

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India Greenland

at 09:58 on 13th Aug 2018

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“We are not born equal” is one of the first lines in ‘Killymuck’, an immensely powerful play exploring the life of the underclass in a world where money equals opportunity. Based on award winning writer and director Kat Woods’ own experiences of being “a kid from the benefit system” in Northern Ireland, this heartbreaking show is a must-see at the fringe this year.

‘Killymuck’ is the hour-long monologue of Niamh, played stunningly by Aoife Lennon. Her alcoholic and abusive father, the struggles in Northern Ireland, abortion, suicide and bullying are all covered in this show. Perfectly casted, Lennon was believable and navigated every moment and emotion faultlessly. Despite doing this show every night, Lennon was crying nearly as much as the audience by the end of her hard-hitting performance.

The show begins with the story of Niamh’s speedy birth; a subtle and genius way of reminding the audience that we do not choose the circumstances we are born into. In ‘Killymuck’ we learn that for those in situations like Niamh an awareness of the class system in Britain is unavoidable. It’s there in the way teachers and boys treat her, it’s there in her lack of opportunity, it’s there in the tragic incidences involving people she knows. We hear about her experiences growing up centring on her friends, family and school life. ‘Killymuck’ recalls moments that seem small at a glance, like Niamh being teased for her green coat because she couldn’t afford a nice new one, or an individual detention she was unfairly given. However, Woods’ ability to use stories like these to subtly promote a wider message about how much harder it is for those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve is testament to her spectacular writing.

In her school with three computers between hundreds and a cast of discriminatory teachers, education as a means of escape is held unfairly out of reach for Niamh, who fails to get into grammar school under immense pressure. At one point, Niamh recalls misbehaving in a French lesson before Lennon freezes and removes herself from the scene to come out and reflect frankly on the lack of motivation there is to learn French when you know you’ll never be able to afford to go on holiday there. These rare and poignant moments in the show when the acting is put on pause and the audience are educated a little more on facts to do with the issue that’s been mentioned are a brilliant touch, hugely effective and powerful but by no means over the top.

Beautifully written and superbly acted, this show is an absolute gem. It tells an important message without ever being preachy, and Lennon’s performance was one of the most powerful I have ever seen. An unforgettable show, ’Killymuck’ has to be one of the most important and moving performances at the Fringe this year.

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