Gutted – Fringe Theatre review

Gutted is a black comedy that is set in a fish factory in 1980’s Dublin written by Sharon Byrne and directed by Chris White. It explores the lives of three strong women who are friends through working in the same dead end job, and yet all have dreams of something bigger and better than what their lives are at the moment.

The stage is sparsely set with nothing but a plain white backdrop with strip lighting, standing lamps and ceiling lights, however, the lights are cleverly linked and used as extra characters throughout and this is incredibly well presented. The story is told in interlinking comic monologue from the three women Deidre ( Niamh Finlay), Delores ( Sarah Hosford) and Breda (Eleanor Byrne) covering just one particular night of their lives.

It is Irish storytelling at its best with comedy concealing a powerful undertone of hurt and heartache that is hinted at throughout. It’s raw and relatable and immediately transported me back to my teenage years with the girls singing excerpts of some songs of the time – notably Tainted Love (oh the memories!) and yet tainted love can totally sum up the underlying theme of the play.

It touches on the struggles these women (and all women) had in the 80’s particularly in a Catholic stronghold. The shame of pregnancy, yet the struggle to get birth control and reality of those women who had to travel to the mainland for any sort of help or resolution to their circumstances. There’s also a tip of the hat to the small town feel at the time that fuelled gossip and judgement towards not only those trapped in these situations, but also the families too.

I went from laughing out loud to having a lump in my throat at a very powerful scene, that was built up and enhanced by the use of a single spotlight and a soft echo on the actors voice, as she finally told her heartbreaking personal story of what happened to her. It’s gripping yet horrifying at the same time and I was captivated from the very start. These three characters draw you in to their individual stories and its easy to both empathise and sympathise with them and their current situations, and although they are linked and played out on the same night they are all very different.

There is a resolve with these women though, they will be forever linked in a time and place where women had no real voice and there will be lots of women who will have lived these stories themselves and for them it will be only too real. But as is the Irish way this particular play finds humour in the ordinary, in the delivery of the ordinary, and in the sadness that the ordinary can hide, which is what also makes it extraordinary.

Gutted is on tour at the moment and their website has full details if you want to grab yourself some tickets and for up to date news on the play you can follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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