Efficacy 84 from the outset has given itself a mountain of a task by wanting to look at the Kerry Babies tragedy.
The story it is looking at is unresolved and so much of the evidence is inconclusive, meaning that what they are exploring is in part the facts that we know, but more so Catholic Ireland’s past in which there was so much shame and stigma around sex and unmarried mothers.
Throughout the show there is a fitting tone of confusion. Síofra Ní Mheara, playing Joanne, convincingly portrays a woman, in love with a married man and dealing both with rejection when she becomes pregnant and coercion when she begins to be questioned on the finding of the baby on the beach, suggested to be hers through superfecundation.
The cast play the roles of interrogators, friends and family. They break at times to sing, with a piano played in the back corner of the stage. This creates some beautiful moments, particularly with the harmonising of the female voices.
They tell the story of what happened to Joanne’s baby but never offer a resolve to the baby found on the beach as there has never been one since the actual events 33 years ago.
The cast during the piece start a meeting as themselves, discussing the futile task of devising a show without sufficient information.
Though this is not the strongest point in the piece, it does give the opportunity to tell the audience about the death of a star, how it has a huge gravitational pull and eventually collapses on itself, creating a supernova.
It is obvious how this relates to the case, centred around this woman and two children, and how it managed to captivate the public and expose the nature of the Irish church controlled state.
The costumes in this production are 1940’s style, which reminds us that this treatment of women transcends time, as we consider both how recent this case is and the treatment of women in Ireland today.
The sound design is powerful, ranging from classical music to disco, immersing us in the piece. The music combined with dance gives us a strong sense of parochial Ireland and the secrecy and whitewashing experienced within communities.
While we aren’t given closure on the case itself, a strong cast and stunning technical aspects make this is a beautiful and evocative piece, timely and memorable.
Efficacy 84 runs until 23rd September
by Siofra NicLiam