By Eric Farrell
‘Feck Off Crows’ was presented by The Garden Theatre Company which is based in Arklow and was the first play the company has staged.
Feck Off Crows focuses on a bitter, domestic conflict set in the midst of the War of Independence in which two nuns enlist the help of opposing factions of the war in eliminating the threat of the crows outside. Humorous from the outset with darker connotations, the plot is simple, yet compelling.
Anna, an innocent youth, arrives at the nunnery with the intentions of joining the order. She is what you might consider the quintessential Holy Joe, adamant in her belief that she has been called by God even if her superior, the dominant Sr. Irene, mocks her for her foolish notions. However, the pair are far less religious than one might expect, especially given the context of the play. Sr. Irene is vociferous in what she calls “the temptation and the selfishness of the community”. Based on the prominent role of nuns in society at the time, this statement is wholly hypocritical. As for Anna, we see her fall in love with Michael O’ Grady who slowly seduces her away from the order, creating the scenario for trouble later on.
The characters are both daring and unlawful. Anna attempts to wrestle her own degree of independence from the senior nun; Michael O’ Grady and Mr. Dempsey harbour a weapon from British eyes; Sr. Irene comes across as a traitor, all too eager to supply Mr Adamson (the English officer played by Benjamin Musgrave) with information as to the actions of the Irish rebels.
In fact, it is Sr. Irene and not the English soldier that is the play’s true villain. She is cunning and manipulative, ready to sacrifice anyone for her own gain. She professes that “all these men are interested in is starting a war” but indeed is she who is creating the grounds for a civil war.
While the acting is well executed, there is no great depth to any of the characters apart from Sr. Irene whose secret is revealed at the end. The play’s most humorous moments are delivered by Sr. Irene (Breid Morris). She drives the action forward and easily gives the play’s standout performance. Aislinn Ni Uallachaain is convincing as the apprehensive and helpless Anna. Benjamin Musgrave adopts the part of the sloppy and intoxicated Mr. Adamson with relative ease, while Shane Fallon and Joe Purcell both do an excellent job as the Irish rebels.
In terms of stage production, the action takes place within the nunnery in a room adorned by holy relics and a picture of Christ. The play is set in rural Tipperary, a breeding ground for rebellion against the British army. Evoking shades of Hitchcock-styled suspense to the play are the sound effects that herald the arrival of the crows to the nunnery.
Feck Off Crows is somewhat radical in the way it communicates to the audience the religious attitudes of its characters. We witness two nuns quickly losing their religion. Moreover, religion is never taken too seriously, perhaps best emphasised when Mr. Adamson asks “what kind of a whore house you running here?” once Anna and Michael’s relationship is brought to his attention. But it is by straying from their religious beliefs in addition to Sr. Irene’s mollycoddling of Mr. Adamson that triggers the potential for tragedy.
Venue: The Grand Hotel, Wicklow.
Presented by The Garden Theatre Company.
Written and directed by Thomas Quain.
Cast: Breid Morris, Aislinn Ni Uallachaain, Joe Purcell, Shane Fallon, Benjamin Musgrave.
Date: March 10-14