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Gutted by Sharon Byrne at the Irish Cultural Centre | Review

Gutted by Sharon Byrne
Gutted by Sharon Byrne

Combining slags and slang, sex and swearing, comedy and tragedy, Gutted by Sharon Byrne is a compelling play about three working class women factory workers in 1980s Dublin. It does for Dublin what Trainspotting did for Edinburgh. A big difference is that Gutted tells the story through the voices of three young women who work in a fish factory. They spend 8 hours a day gutting fish and their lives outside the factory involves frustrations that leave them gutted. Hence the pun in the play’s title. Gutted moves on from Angela’s Ashes misery memoir into Tipping the Velvet erotic liberation and the comic exuberance Roddy Doyle’s working class Dublin. It is in many ways Dublin’s very own Fleabag. It’s a landmark play and will be a classic of contemporary Irish drama.

Gutted is chic lit Dublin style. Not so much sex and shopping as sex and swearing, flirting and fighting, seeking and searching. Working class Dublin spoken slang is here realised in all its richness. Ejet = idiot, Ride = sex, Gee = Vagina, Mot = girlfriend, these and many other slang words give Gutted an authentic sense of thick description. To hear it spoken by women is all the more liberating, poignant and exhilarating. The three women Breda, Deirdre and Dolores are superbly realised in dialogue of outstanding realism and subtlety. The sexual honesty is unflinching. Dolores (Sarah Hosford) sees a fellar at the Blue Lagoon nightclub and immediately confesses that “of course I wanted to ride him“. Ride being one of those wonderful Dublin slang words that Gutted revels in. Dolores gives wonderful insight into a young woman’s sexual dilemma. The fellar she fancies is shy and won’t make the first move even though she is desperate for him to do so but she can’t tell him that because it’s not what girls do. Catch 22. Dolores is also petrified that her friends will let out that she is a Gypo from the back fields of Finglas and that then he won’t want to get off with her. The pecking order and snobbery go right down the social scale. Gutted brings out these dilemmas and ironies again and again. By giving us Dublin seen through the eyes of these three young women we gain a new perspective on seemingly familiar territory.

The set and lighting are an integral part of the show. Mic stands topped with light bulbs and lamp shades double up as both light props and mics. Breda, Deirdre and Dolores suddenly morph into the Corrs and sing Soft Cells “Tainted Love” as they reflect on their doomed quest to find a half way decent fellar in Dublin. Breda (Eleanor Byrne ) is desperate to get away from Rocky her psychopathically jealousy husband. With one chilling word she captures the horror of her situation. It’s the “Hidings” (slang for beatings) she can’t stand. She decides that she is going to pull Roberto the Italian stallion at The Blue Lagoon nightclub. Dublin men have not an ounce of romance in them so she figures a life with Roberto eating tagliatelle and living on the beach in Amalfi will be her escape from the fish factory. But she learns that although Roberto maybe be more romantic and less violent than Rocky, he is a mummy’s boy.

With its compellingly fast paced narrative flow, weaving in and out of three different but related narratives and its mix of black comedy and gritty realism Gutted entertains, educates and informs effortlessly. Sisters are doing it for themselves, there ain’t no stopping them now. The women of Ireland are on the move.

4 stars

Review by John O’Brien

Gutted, an Irish black comedy by Whitstable-based playwright Sharon Byrne, directed by Chris White, tours to 15 UK venues between Thursday 3 and Wednesday 30 October 2019. Set in a 1980’s Dublin fish-factory, Gutted explores the lives of three women, played by Eleanor Byrne, Niamh Finlay and Sarah Hosford, with dark humour and tenderness. This tour of Gutted comes after a successful run at The Marlowe, Canterbury in 2017 and the Edinburgh Festival in 2018.

Opening in Canterbury on Thursday 3 October 2019, Gutted visits Aylesbury, Sudbury, Basildon, Hammersmith, Bromley, Watford, Crawley, Walthamstow, Deal, Hemel Hempstead, Maidstone, Guildford, Enfield and Clapham.

Sharon Byrne (Charlie’s Wake, Finborough Theatre) draws on her Dublin upbringing to present the lives of three strong women working in a fish factory in the 1980’s. Through comic monologue, the women give us a snapshot of the characters and challenges in their lives at the time. Exploring themes of family, trust, love and loss, Gutted touches on issues of domestic violence and abortion, which remain as relevant today as they were over 30 years ago.

Directed by Chris White
Produced by Vivienne Foster
Lighting by Marty Langthorne
Choreography by Jess Boyd
Costumes by Sorcha Corcoran
Cast includes: Eleanor Byrne, Niamh Finlay and Sarah Hosford

Twitter @guttedfringe / Facebook guttedfringe / Instagram – guttedfringe


  • John OBrien

    JOHN O’BRIEN born in London in 1960 is a born and bred Londoner. His mother was an illiterate Irish traveller. His early years were spent in Ladbroke Grove. He was born at number 40 Lancaster Road. In 1967 the family was rehoused in Hackney. He attended Brooke House School for Boys in Clapton, - as did Lord Sugar. He became head boy and was the first person in his family to make it to university, gaining a place at Goldsmiths College in 1978. He took a degree in Sociology and a PGCE . From 1982 until 1993 he taught at schools in Hackney and Richmond. In 1984-85 he attended Bristol University where he gained a Diploma in Social Administration. From 1985 until 1989 he studied part-time in the evenings for a degree in English Literature at Birkbeck College. He stayed on at Birkbeck from 1990-1992 to study for an MA in Modern English Literature. He left teaching in 1993 and has worked as a tutor, researcher, writer and tour guide. He leads bespoke guided tours on London’s history, art , architecture and culture. He has attended numerous courses at Oxford University - Exeter College, Rewley House & Kellogg College. In London, he attends courses at Gresham College, The National Gallery, The British Museum, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, The British Academy and The Royal Society. Read the latest London theatre reviews by all reviewers.

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