“We are putting the female perspective front and centre” — director aims to highlight key issues in new play
A dark comedy about three Anglo-Irish women living under one roof hopes to shine a light on issues affecting women of all ages.
Reared, which runs from April 4 to April 28 at Theatre 503 in Battersea, deals with themes of inter-generational conflict told with lashings of black humour.
Written by BAFTA-nominated John Fitzpatrick, the play will be brought to life by director Sarah Davey-Hull.
“With this company, with this play, we are putting the female perspective front and centre,” Sarah said.
“Women’s stories matter. This show is opening up questions of feminism; about where we are now and what has shifted.”
“We have really hit the zeitgeist.”
“In a way, it’s quite a small story,” she added.
“But it has universal themes.”
Sarah spoke of how vital it was to be a female director and to have a female designer and three, strong female leads.
“Young women are finding their voice in this moment in history,” Sarah said.
“I feel a real sense of something new coming.”
A darkly comic story about families and how to survive them, Sarah’s Reared focuses on a daughter, a mother, her husband and his mother—all trying to live together under one roof.
All the action takes place in an Irish kitchen, and the play’s protagonists are teenager Caitlin, her grandmother, Nova, and her mother Eileen.
“It genuinely feels brilliantly intergenerational,” Sarah said.
“We have got three generations of women who have all had different experiences during the female struggle.
“It’s been fascinating—what we’re learning from each other.”
The grandmother in the play is suffering from the onset of dementia, about which the father figure is in denial.
Statistically, dementia affects more women than men and women often find themselves in the carer role.
“Being the carer is still a role we largely assign to women,” Sarah said.
In the play’s Irish context, Sarah highlighted the ‘Irish mammy’, as the matriarch, was expected to deal and cope with everything.
“[The play] is really about how the mother figure gets through that with unfailing good humour,” Sarah said.
The director, who has directed at Shakespeare’s Globe, anticipated bringing her own life experiences to the Battersea production.
She revealed it was really important, when approaching a new project, to connect with it on a personal level.
She said: “When John Fitzpatrick sent me the play to read, I completely identified with Eileen.
“I have a father who has dementia and I have a 15-year-old daughter, so it absolutely spoke to me.”
She added: “Having a parent who has dementia is a really difficult thing to come to terms with.
“And to admit a parent is losing a grip on reality pushes you closer along the line, towards death, yourself.”
Referring to humour’s power as a form of coping strategy, she said: “You can’t talk about these things, so you have to release through something.
“So you release through laughter—rather than shouting.”
She added: “The other thing that was really important to me was that these women were funny.
“And that they were dealing with it with a real, unfailing humour.
She confessed she thought this was the way many families dealt with difficult subjects, and envisaged the play would confront relatable issues through a humorous Irish lens.
“You win in an Irish argument by being funnier than the last person,” she said.
Writer John Fitzpatrick said: “At the heart of this play, I hope there are warm, funny, hardworking women.
“Society has set them against one another and yet, through their resilience, they manage to deeply care for and protect each other.
“Reared had to be funny because the women I’ve grown up with in Ireland are the wittiest people I know and I’d be doing them a disservice if my characters didn’t at least try to match their level of humour.”
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