NORTHERN Ireland is the backdrop to Everything Between Us, the award winning play by David Ireland that is now getting an airing at the Finborough Theatre in London’s Chelsea.
Predictably, its theme is the troubles – and the painful journey to a near state of political and religious reconciliation (although more recent events suggest otherwise).
But this is no predictable play. Far from it.
It boils away for 70 minutes like a vat of oil, spitting out globules of venom at every opportunity. The play is not for the faint hearted, nor those who are easily offended by the liberal use of the ‘c’ or ‘f’ words. It never fails to shock.
It starts with Teeni McKinney coming back to Belfast after an eleven year absence – on day one of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission for Northern Ireland at Stormont.
The play is savage from the very first moment Teeni storms on stage pursued by her older sister Sandra until the finale when Sandra walks off it exclaiming her horror at being a human being. Visceral throughout – shocking in parts – but it is not without its moments of rich humour.
Teeni’s return is a whirlwind one and she is all fire and brimstone as she rails against everyone. ‘I came out screaming like a banshee,’ she says, referring to her birth. ‘I declared war on this world as soon as I was out.’
Her targets include the chair of the commission who, shockingly, she abuses racially. Her older sister Sandra Richardson is ridiculed for her weight – ‘you’re fat’, ‘I can’t even bear to breath the same air as you’. Fenians, she hates with a vengeance, even lambasting her sister for wearing a green dress.
Even Nelson Mandela is given a verbal going over although the bubble Teeni has been living in over the past eleven years means she is not even aware of the great man’s death.
Teeni is, blonde, self-assured, sexually confident and a recovering alcoholic (three years dry, allegedly). ‘I’m beautiful, I’m really intelligent, I’m funny, I’m sexy,’ she proclaims.
She is also a lethal mix of energy, hatred and bile. Kicking out at everything (most of the stage set) and everyone (ex-boyfriends, her mother and her dead father, a member of a protestant paramilitary group and a killer of nine Fenians who was in turn murdered by the IRA).
By way of contrast, Sandra is overweight, becalmed by comparison and an integral part of the peace process (a member of the legislative assembly). But she is not without her demons, separated from husband Stevie and bizarrely a member of Alcoholics Anonymous even though she does not drink.
Her turmoil is fuelled in part by the fact by Teeni walked out on the family and then failed to contact them – even when their father died.
‘Say sorry,’ she pleads. ‘You’ve caused havoc. Our mother has been crying for eleven years.’ The fact that Teeni drew a knife on Sandra’s son Ryan when he was newly born has left a metaphorical weeping wound between the two of them.
This familial fracture is the essence of the play and towards the end we get an explanation as to why Teeni is so unhinged.
Uncomfortable, yes. Cringingly so on occasion. But it is essential viewing nonetheless. The acting by both Katrina McKeever (Teeni) and Lynsey-Anne Moffat (Sarah) is top drawer. I certainly wouldn’t want a run-in with McKeever’s Teeni while enjoying a night out in Belfast.
As has become the norm with the Finborough Theatre in recent months, Everything Between Us is an excellent production superbly directed by Neil Bull. Hats off to The Working Party Theatre Company for its role in bringing this play to an English audience.
If you have a strong constitution, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It runs until May 16.
Everything Between Us – 4/5
Teeni: Katrina McKeever
Sandra: Lynsey-Anne Moffat
Director: Neil Bull
Designer: Laura Cordery
Casting director: Matthew Dewsbury
Producer: Matthew Schmolle
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