Like the title, Deirdre Kinahan’s MOMENT has a point where the silence of the cast is echoed by the silence of the audience, as a moment of clarity is understood. Kinahan’s characters fail to face the elephant in the room until the claustrophobic kitchen in which they have assembled has no more air to breathe – apart from the thick air of the past, the very thing they all tried to move on from.
After seven years in prison for killing a young girl named Hillary, Nial (Ronan Leahy) is attempting to make a new life with his new wife Ruth (Rebecca O’Mara). At Ruth’s insistence, they visit Nial’s mother, Teresa (Deirdre Donnelly), as a way of ‘making a family’ again. Whilst time has moved on, the wounds of Nial’s killing linger in every action and line spoken by Nial’s sister Niamh (Maeve Fitzgerald), who was a childhood friend of Hilary. Clearly deeply affected, her childhood memories never fade, leaving Niamh on a knife’s edge. Those around her do not understanding the pain she has been through:
“You understand nothing / And you know nothing / Because Nial knows fucking nothing.”
Kinahan’s MOMENT at the Bush Theatre (coincidentally, this will be the last moment to see anything at the Bush Theatre before it moves into its new home at The Bush Library) is much like the kettle that continually boils in the kitchen: it delivers so much steam during the first half that you’re sure it will never boil. Whilst it is frustrating to endure tepid subtexts and hidden meanings in the dialogue at first, it is out of this frustration that the characters come bursting out of their inhabited shells to bring about the climatic dialogue – and even the contents of their stomach – as temperatures run high and the tension builds to the interval.
MOMENT delivers a delightful slice of family tension in Kinahan’s text, but David Horan’s direction does, at times, play the actions of the characters in glorified mannerisms instead of allowing the subtleties of the dialogue to shine through. O’Mara’s Ruth is an example of this, where overplayed actions gain laughs but offer nothing to Ruth’s depth as the intruder within the family. Equally, Kate Nic Chonaonaigh’s Ciara (sister to Niamh) seems lost within Horan’s direction, especially when her questioning of why Nial killed Hillary is such a fine moment to be played. What could be a challenging instance dies slightly with Ciara’s change in character. Yet with Will Jospeth Irvine’s Fin as the somewhat distanced boyfriend of Niamh, Irvine’s foolery works wonders in the awkward tension that pervades every line, giving the audience a warm and loving character to grasp onto.
As the central characters in MOMENT, Donnelly’s Teresa is perfectly refined as she loses clarity of mind and progresses to illness. Fitzgerald as Niamh carries the torture of childhood loss well – crashing through the subtext as she tires of “all the pretense”. As the fingers point, and the shifting of blame spins from character to character, it is Leahy’s Nial who remains isolated. Not excused for his action, and not over the “moment of madness”, Leahy portrays a broken and taped-together Nial, one who will never understand how “easy” it was to kill another person.
At times shocking, at times frustrating, Kinahan’s MOMENT offers more than glimmering instances of broken family mechanics and ghostly memories, it delivers a scalding-hot blow of Irish talent.
MOMENT plays at the Bush Theatre until 26th March. Information and tickets can be found on its website here. Photo by Geraint Lewis.