In many ways, Katie Roche does not tell a new story. The play, written by Teresa Deevy, was first produced on the Abbey stage in 1936. The themes of the clashes of gender and class are far from unique to this play, and one-room household play is not a fresh format. Do not be deceived by these first impressions, however. The revival of Katie Roche by the Abbey this year speaks volumes, as does the production itself.
Katie, the eponymous heroine of the play, is an embodiment of some of the greatest challenges faced by society, both in the 1930s, and today. Leaping about the stage in her bare feet, Caoilfhionn Dunne brings a fierce and desperate energy to her role. Her energy, and that of Kevin Creedon (Michael Maguire) and Dylan Kennedy (Jo Mahony), plays in perfect counterpart to the (mostly) staid and steady characters of Stanislaus and Amelia Gregg (played by Sean Campion and Siobhan McSweeney respectively). The set up provided by Deevy’s script, of class, gender and intergenerational conflict is near-perfect, and the execution of that script in this production is second to none.
The cast are also aided by the set created for this production. Lighting design (Paul Keogan) plays a vital role in this imagining, and the scoring of Ray Harman provides an immediate and engaging soundtrack throughout.
In some ways, this play could be seen as a natural successor to the Abbey’s 2016 production of Anna Karenina, which was adapted for the stage by Marina Carr. However, to see it as just that would be to do a great injustice. Katie Roche is a play which has stood the test of time in the last 81 years, emerging as vibrant and unpredictable as the woman herself.
By Síofra Ní Shluaghadháin