By Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands.
The Progress Theatre are performing Elaine Murphy’s tenderly crafted Little Gem next week. Steph Dewar’s warmly funny and moving production, intimately staged, employs seamlessly interwoven monologues that are delivered by three generations of working-class Irish women.
The lively ladette Amber (played with huge swagger in bejewelled trainers and yet with touching vulnerability by Tara O’Connor) is besotted with her somewhat erratic boyfriend Paul. Alcohol fuelled, she likes to throw some moves on the disco dance floor – a superb 80s soundscape by Carole Brown.
Her mother, Lorraine (a delightfully humorous and sensitive portrayal by Steph Gunner) is long abandoned by her thieving junkie husband and suffers from mild OCD. She works as a stressed-out shop assistant, her anxiety heightened by a customer who sticks a lipstick in the pot pourri jar! Her shrink encourages her to do one “nice thing for herself each week” so she takes up salsa dancing and meets the hirsute Niall.
The third character is Amber’s beige-clad granny and Lorraine’s mother, Kay (a deeply affecting yet deliciously funny performance by Alison Hill) who is devastated by her beloved husband Gem’s recent stroke. She misses their former sex life and seeks hilarious solace amongst the adult merchandise at Anne Summers.
We follow their trials and tribulations, the sudden blessings which resonate with us all. There is a birth and a death…
The theme of family weaves through the play as the three women react to life’s events. They endure through joy and sadness and the final scene shows them touchingly united, closer than ever before. The enthusiastic reaction of the audience suggests that they were both moved and uplifted by this truly life-affirming play – definitely one to see!
- The Progress Theatre website and Facebook page
- ‘Little Gem’ at the Progress Theatre
- Progress Theatre tickets