In Each Other’s Shadow is a play I wrote for the dissertation of my Master of Arts in Irish Studies degree at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham. It gained a distinction as Saints and Scholars, but I’ve since renamed and rewritten it with the advantage of time, changing political events and some excellent, if at times brutal, honest brokers.
It’s May 2018 and a distinguished historian returns to her hometown in Donegal for a talk on the discovery of a lost film featuring a controversial politician who’d been elected to the first Irish parliament in 1918. She has not been home in 30 years, for a few good reasons it transpires. Although it is a lightning visit, she is obliged to defend not just the politician’s apparent shortcomings, but also her own. Set against the backdrop of the 2018 Irish referendum on women’s rights to abortion where only Donegal rejected it, her home place has more than a few of its own shortcomings.
It is in effect two plays in one. The first act is topical, coming one hundred years on from Ireland’s first steps to independence and looks at the stance and subsequent reputation of the controversial politician from 100 years ago. What do you do with your revolution once you’ve had it? The play asks if the Irish were sold a ‘pup’ after their revolution and questions the lofty status of Ireland’s so-called heroes, right back to St. Patrick.
Act Two is the showdown developed on from Act One. It’s a play where the ‘tall poppy’ is clipped, where the themes of enforced exile, lingering animosities and petty jealousies are exposed. At the heart of the play is the fact that no matter how well you may do in the world, in your hometown, you’ll be brought down to size very quickly and reminded in no uncertain terms, that ‘it was far from that you were reared’.
It’s a play full of black, savage humour, where each party gives as they good as they get and where scores are settled by all parties, but at whose expense? It asks if a person’s history is destined to haunt them. Repressed memories, latent resentments, home truths and putdowns fly from all quarters. It is a night for picking a variety of bones with each other. In short, it’s war.
Rural vs. urban divide
Conservative vs. liberal viewpoints
Street smart vs. intellectual perspectives
Repression vs. endeavour
Staidness vs. innovation
Town ‘royalty’ vs. blow ins
Lost love, lost hope, lost dreams