★ ★ ★ ★ and a half!
In its first Dublin Theatre Festival production for over 20 years, Dublin Youth Theatre presents an incredibly moving piece of theatre exploring the burdens borne by young carers for whom the parent/child roles of protector and dependent have been reversed within the family home. A potent collaboration between last year’s Fishamble New Writing Award winner Shaun Dunne (Death of the Tradesmen; I am a Home Bird) and DYT Artistic Director Gary Keegan (also co-founder of Brokentalkers – Have I No Mouth; The Blue Boy), I’ve to Mind Her centres on the poignant plight of fifth-year student Paul, who lives alone with a mother incapacitated by mental health struggles and for whom he is the sole guardian.
A sense of isolation and incarceration hangs over the set; a family home cramped by the thick dark walls of the Black Box space and scattered with articles of domestic duty – an ironing board, a kettle, kitchen crockery – as well as several video cameras and a large projection screen. Combining DYT’s focus on ensemble work and Dunne’s post-dramatic form of storytelling, a cast of eight impressive young actors shifts shape and interchanges roles throughout. Onstage voiceovers narrate much of the action, address the audience directly and articulate the protagonist’s private thoughts – he worries how much of his mother’s illness he may have inherited, he muses on all of the things he needs from her that she cannot provide, he imagines passing on her care and admitting that he just cannot manage any longer.
While I’ve to Mind Her concentrates on the heart-breaking story of one teenager’s struggle to cope and reach out for help, Dunne’s script ensures that the emotional core of the play resonates beyond the specifics of Paul’s case. We are left with great compassion for others in his circumstances and a desire to see them protected and supported - for when the child is the carer, who cares for the child?
Ends 6 October.
Review by: Donna Marie O’Donovan