The second novel in Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy is as secure and uncomplicated a part of Irish nostalgia as the good feeling of Italia ’90 (also from the same year) and as pleasingly fuzzy in the mind as a VHS recording of the 1993 film adaptation. It’s funny to consider, though, that Sharon Rabbitte’s baby would now be nearly 30. For her Millennial attitudes, perhaps, Doyle’s stage version of The Snapper, revived from last summer, makes some intriguing adjustments. It begins, for instance, not with Jimmy Rabbitte’s immortal line “You’re wha?”, but Sharon’s own announcement, “I’m pregnant!”. That’s a subtle re-orientation, although a lot less funny, much like one compassionate addition of support for those who, unlike Sharon, decide not to be.
Otherwise the play is so faithful to the original that The Snapper often seems nostalgic for itself, given neon-bright energy by director Róisín McBrinn. Sharon won’t name the father. Rumours abound. Jimmy Rabbitte Snr does his heart-warming best (Ah, jaysis). Veronica is forever sewing. The house is a bright allegro of demand, worry and good-humoured abuse. That can be hard to reconcile with a plot that pivots on a young woman getting pregnant while too drunk to give consent. Sharon may not recognise it as rape, but the play seems more conflicted, recalling the moment in a disturbance of video images, while restricting Mr Burgess to a pathetic figure of fun. For all its warm escapism, that might be part of The Snapper people prefer to forget.
All politics is local, goes one mantra. But often the implications reach far further. Take the story of Aoife, a young woman in Belfast, bored and hungry for more from life, who finds herself seeking help beyond her home. When half an hour in the bedroom of a young man brings unintended consequences, her options for abortion in Northern Ireland are heavily restricted, but not so in the rest of the United Kingdom. Or, as it happens, in the Republic.
Rachel Trezise's coming of age tale, performed by Amy Molloy, initially had another audience in mind when it premiered last year. A commission by the National Theatre of Wales, as part of a festival of monologues held to celebrate the National Health Service's 70th birthday, its debut in the west Wales town of Fishguard had a sombre kind of significance: this is where the Irish ferries dock. Addressing cycles of shame and secrecy, and the power of female autonomy, the show now has its own reason to make a journey, providing the NTW with its first tour of Ireland, North and South, concluding in Bray.