It’s been a while since I’ve seen a naturalistic play. And Reared reminds me of the power and poignancy of storytelling – of simply watching a ‘normal’ family attempting to live a ‘normal’ life, without succumbing to the strain of social pressure and the burden of perfectionism.
Fifteen year old Caitlin (Danielle Phillips) has fallen pregnant. The sixteen year old father is more concerned with preserving his anonymity (and the fact that he’s gay) than actively supporting her. Caitlin’s dad is in denial over the fact that his mother. Nora, is showing early signs of dementia. Caitlin’s mum is guilt-ridden over a decade long secret.
Despite the happy-go-lucky family façade, Reared shows us the consequences of only facing problems when it’s too late. As Caitlin says, her own perceptions about her body led her to not realise she was pregnant until much later on. In fact, on several occasions, the audience unravel vital information before the characters themselves do, lending to the sense of foreboding throughout the play.
It’s a smart script. And a dark one too. Whilst some scenes do feel a little drawn out (perhaps due to some repetitive, hesitant dialogue) Fitzpatrick takes a strong hold of our emotions, manoeuvring us from laughter to shock to sympathy throughout the show. The writing is strong and with a little more work on pacing, the show would be relentlessly impactful.
What truly makes this production is the strength of the actors themselves. Whilst Danielle Phillips shines as the epitome of an angst ridden teen, Caitlin, all the cast are to be commended for excellent performances. Paddy Glynn’s performance is at turns humorous and touching. Daniel Crossley is a sympathetic, well meaning father. Rohan Nedd has a superb handle on both his serious and more comedic scenes, and of course, Shelley Atkinson performs with real tenacity and strength, despite her conflicted and fragile character.
There are some nice thought-provoking moments too, such as when budding actor Caitlin performs Lady Macbeth’s monologue ‘the raven himself is hoarse’; it’s interesting to see a pregnant Caitlin play Lady Macbeth, a character fames for denying her femininity and maternal instincts. The directorial decision to have this monologue played for the audience is pleasing. However, there are also small pockets of direct address sprinkled throughout the play which felt at odds with the production itself.
Reared offers some creative insight into guilt, denial and the human tendency to procrastinate what we know must be done.