UNDERBELLY (VENUE 61)
A YOUNG Irish woman stands by a lake at night and tells her sorry tale. It doesn't sound like a great hour of drama but this simply told one-woman show grips from start to finish.
Writer Declan Feenan isn't trying to make a great point about life, he's just telling us the story of one person in a world where joy and pain struggle for the upper hand.
Claire, a 17-year-old Newry meat packer, falls for the wrong man but just as she meets the right man and her horizons begin to expand, they contract again. By that lonely lake, she seems poised to kill herself, an act which would consign her, as a Catholic girl, not to Heaven or Hell, but purgatory - limbo. In one sense, she's there already.
Feenan's first full-length play is well served by newcomer Caroline Williamson, whose finely judged performance - directed by Dan Sherer - gives us a woman desperate for the next ray of hope. Without going over the top on the accents, Williamson inhabits not only Claire, but her pals and the men in her life. We get snapshots of the factory days and style bar nights, and it's always convincing. Feenan has a gift for small, telling details beyond the now-clichd Alan Bennett/Victoria Wood recitation of such working-class familiars as gypsy creams and brandy snaps. There's an enormous vulnerability in Williamson's interpretation of the script, but she's never depressing; every now and then there's a shrug, a smile that brings hope she'll make it through.
The cave-like Iron Belly is the perfect space for this piece - black but for the lit-up area around Claire and the makeshift metallic lake. Basically, she's alone in the ever-encroaching dark. Join her.
Until 26 August. Today 2.20pm