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Reviewed by Chloe Allan
“Eyes”, to quote character Gerry, are “windows to the soul”, documenting the first face you saw, and likewise, the last. With this in mind, the questions playwright writer Alison Carr poses through her play (questions of feminism, motherhood and the complex nature of relationships) take on a new meaning.
Iris, who gives her name to the title of the piece, is an intangible figure, a matriarch whose domineering shadow still looms over her family from beyond the grave … along with her eye, bequeathed to her daughter Ruby, that lies like something from a science fiction film, on the coffee table!
Julie, another of Iris’s daughters (portrayed by the gifted Katy Cavanagh) appears unsympathetic, cruel even; however, as the play progresses and layers of the character’s past are stripped away, Carr reveals “something,” a softness in her borne out of her past that provokes the audience to question her unfeeling persona. In an attempt to avoid confronting life, as it changes and thrusts responsibilities on to the unsuspecting Julie, her evenings, so we are told, are spent with a variety of strange men – all of whom the audience do not see until we are introduced to Gerry: loveable and polite.
Actually, when walking home, it struck me just how skilled an actor Joe Caffery (Gerry) genuinely is. When performing, I must have taken this for granted, seeming to forget he was acting it all. Watching him was like listening to one of my dad’s friends talk; his dialogue, accent, mannerisms all made him this epitome of an average man (except perhaps he is kinder), and an actor who can make the audience so familiar and relaxed in his company, is the perhaps the truest testimony of an accomplished performance.
Lastly we get to Ruby; the youngest of Iris’s daughters, crippled with a mixture of grief and self-loathing although initially her humour appears to mask the depth of her struggle. Whilst this creates an impression of Ruby as someone whose fragility makes her weak, if anything it only serves to strengthen her resolve. Collectively, the cast of three perform with the energy and emotion of hundreds. Their dedication to the characters is unquestionable and with the aid of an intriguing plot, Iris is more than capable of captivating an audience. Carr has produced a well thought-out script and written something that differentiates itself from other works of theatre. Ordinarily the language used in theatres can be intimidating; however, Carr invites audiences to a piece of accessible theatre, deserving of recognition.
What was so stirring about Iris was how writer Carr used a setting, unfamiliar to most audiences (strange bequeaths, peculiar family dynamics and an eye on the coffee table) to portray familiar feelings that come with life – pressures: unhappy-ever-afters that we can all relate to, shown through humour and wit. Carr has a golden talent for talking about feelings; the burden of responsibility, being unwanted and allowing someone else to feel unwanted because it’s the easiest thing to do.