Rearing Is Sparing: The complex, challenging reality of mothering in demanding circumstances

Dublin Theatre Festival: TKB guides his audience through gangland violence, revenge and stigma in inner-city Dublin

REARING IS SPARING

Axis, Ballymun, Dublin
★★★☆☆
"What happens to a dream deferred?"

Rearing Is Sparing opens on a sparse set. It could be a waiting room, a cafe or a prison. In reality it is all of these things. It is a liminal space where the play's two protagonists, Maria (Karen Ardiff) and Anita (Denise McCormack), contemplate lost dreams and wasted lives.

The production is undoubtedly topical, as TKB guides his audience through a story of gangland violence, revenge and stigma in Dublin’s inner-city communities, but the central tenet of this play is not about the violence of gangland crime: it is about motherhood. TKB confronts the complex and challenging reality of mothering in these demanding circumstances with an uncompromising force.

Ardiff and McCormack deliver solid performances, placing the conflicted realities of motherhood on firm display. These characters do not hold back, and the stories that are presented here are deeply and purposefully uncomfortable.

Jason Byrne's direction ensures a confident, steady pace, and the play really hits its stride in the final 20 minutes. Occasionally, though, the lines between drama and comedy blur, and we lose the meaning of these moments

The audience really gets to know these women across the play’s short duration. There is a sense that they are unfurling their worlds and their experiences at our feet. However, it is their moments of direct confrontation that are the most powerful. What begins as combat evolves into recognition, empathy and even respect.

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Naomi Faughnan’s set design and Dara Hoban’s lighting take a light-touch approach, which allows the performances to breathe. Jason Byrne’s direction ensures a confident, steady pace, and the play really hits its stride in the final 20 minutes. Occasionally, though, the lines between drama and comedy blur ineffectually, and we lose the meaning of these moments.

Similarly, the play often feels slightly cluttered. It has a lot to say. TKB takes aim at the nature of the sensationalist tabloid media, which cover events like this almost with glee. He focuses on the Irish justice system, illuminating the myriad ways in which it fails to provide equal measures of justice across diverse communities. However, it is the lives of these women and the conditions of these lives that are most significant here.

As such, Rearing Is Sparing is at its most effective when it focuses on the lives of these women. As the lights come down we are left with a powerful and undeniable show of uncompromising solidarity and strength.

Rearing Is Sparing ran at Axis as part of Dublin Theatre Festival; available on demand until Sunday, October 10th