The Fringe Festival is a unique way to interact with theatre, and this work is a testament to that fact. ‘Toilers’ brings together some of the most pressing issues of our time, with some intense performances from the cast (Julie Maguire, Leah Moore and Seána O’Hanlon). It is a piece which takes fragments of a lost play, a life, and blends these with Painted Bird’s politically focused manifesto, which is helpfully outlined in the show programme.
Unfortunately, this is not a work of theatre for the uninitiated, something which is a particular shame. It tacks its flag to the mast early on (not a complaint, by any means), and remains steadfast throughout. The use of the
suffrage question, which was one chief concern of vocal women’s rights activists at the beginning of the 20th century, to mirror the Repeal campaign a century later, was an interesting choice, but it proves difficult to
execute in practice.
What emerges from this performance piece feels distinctly like a work-in- progress. The audience is left in the end with paint on the floor, the female body, a mass of historical and contemporary political issues, without any
real thread to bind them together. The life of Susanne R. Day does not emerge in any significant way, the suffrage issue and the Repeal movement have little in common, save for the women they affect. What the audience does get from this work, finally, is a peak into the artistic process of a modern theatre company.
by Síofra Ní Shluaghadháin