Review: My Name is Saoirse

Driven by one hell of a performance from Eva O’Connor, My Name is Saoirse is an engrossing coming-of-age story.

Set in 1980s rural Ireland (Limerick), Irish actor and playwright Eva O’Connor delivers a solo performance (from her script) that brilliantly captures the agony and ecstasy of childhood and adolescence.

O’Connor plays Saoirse whose mother (‘ma’) died while delivering her. She lives with her ‘da’ and her older brother. With the relationship with her da becoming increasingly strained (it doesn’t help she looks exactly like her ma) and her brother excelling on the sporting field, Saoirse seeks comfort with her more outgoing best friend Siobhan. A teacher suggests that Siobhan is leading Saoirse down the wrong garden path but the exuberant and fiery red head is much more experienced in the ways of the world, and is a rock (with some sharp edges) for the introverted and innocent Saoirse.

The performance switches between a night out with Siobhan and the lads (Siobhan’s new man and his friends) to important moments growing up. As the show progresses, she relies on her boisterous best friend to guide her through adolescence’s most important moments, even though she mightn’t be the best influence.

The night out in question leads to a one night stand, a pregnancy and a trip to London for Saoirse to get an abortion. While other plays might dwell on this decision and the agony it presents for the protagonist, Saoirse just does it. It’s what you need to do in 1980s Catholic Ireland, even though the fact she needs to travel to another country to get an abortion is a mightily unnecessary trip for a schoolgirl to take. It should be easier.

While the coming-of-age themes and situations aren’t radical, O’Connor’s ability to enthral the audience with her cast of characters and wonderful sing-song lines and delivery – complete with familiar and unfamiliar Irish phrases – is a highlight. O’Connor delivers a knockout performance that culminates with a devastatingly haunting and tender final scene that leaves you breathless.

My Name is Saoirse was performed at Noel Lothian Hall at the Adelaide Botanic Garden on Sunday, February 19 and continues until Sunday, March 5