Kitty in the Lane is a ninety-minute monologue written and performed by Áine Ryan.
Kitty lives with her father, who is dying, in a cottage in a remote part of Ireland, two miles from the nearest road along a “lane” which is almost impossible to traverse by car. In fact, when she ordered a new dress, she camped near the main road waiting for it in case the delivery van just drove past… The play takes place in the kitchen, where she waits alone not only for her bed-ridden dictator father to die, but also for her boyfriend to take her to the local pageant.
The set has been atmospherically designed by Constance Comparot: about fifteen wooden timbers reaching from floor to ceiling, plus a wobbly table and chair, making the stage area at The Jack appear much larger than it is but also confining the action so that the audience focuses on Kitty. The mood is greatly aided by some superb lighting design by Alex Forey which contrives to ensure that the actor’s face is always lit, yet gives the impression of mist swirling. Imaginative sound design (Florence Hand), often using the violin which Kitty used to play, is subtly used throughout, also helping to create the atmosphere of foreboding which permeates the entire evening.
Áine Ryan started writing the monologue as part of her MA dissertation at Goldsmith’s College when it was called Daddy’s Girl: Irish Daughters on the Stage. She discovered, perhaps unsurprisingly, that there were very few strong roles for women in plays by Irish writers. Kitty is a modern Irish woman living an incredibly isolated life deep in the Irish countryside. She is going to the pageant to support her only female friend, Salisha, who is performing, but she is her only friend because they were the only two girls at the nearest school and appear to have little in common. Kitty is still trying to recover from the recent tragic death of her brother as well.
Jack Reardon has directed the play so that it is “full throttle” all the time, rarely allowing the tension to slacken, so that it does become rather relentless after a while. For example, there is a scene near the end that might be even more chilling if it were able to build gradually.
Kitty In The Lane is an exhausting play to encounter, and not only because of the subject matter – Áine Ryan is a very physical, angular, actress to watch and listen to, often planting herself firmly before snarling another line: sitting in the audience, one almost feels bruised and battered after about one hour. Perhaps reducing the playing length (it is advertised to run 70 minutes) might make it more powerful.
Review by John Groves
Kitty in the Lane written by Áine Ryan
Directed by Jack Reardon Lighting Design by Alex Forey Set Design by Constance Comparot Sound Design by Florence Hand Sounding and Lighting Operator Scarlett Bryan
Produced by Studio Perform Theatre and Xinyou Zhang
Cast: Áine Ryan
Tuesday 2 – Saturday 13 May 2023 at 7.30 pm Running time: 70 minutes with no interval