It should be the happiest time for any parent; the arrival of your first child. So full of heart-bursting love and joy but equally the terrifying realisation of providing, nurturing and protecting this teeny person.
In a new translation of German playwright’s Franz Xaver Kroetz’s fable, Conor McPherson transports us to modern day Ireland, exploring the seemingly everyday life of an everyday couple with everyday struggles. They’re the couple you pass on the street, they’re you and me.
Martha and Kurt are in full nesting mode, preparing for their new born. They’re scrimping every bit of money together from Martha’s hours cold-calling and Kurt laps up any over-time his boss offers him. He’s a proud bloke and she has the motherly worry ‘Do you want for anything?’ Kurt asks, ‘just my husband’ she replies. They’re a couple burdened by societies materialistic pressures.
Martha has poured over magazines, wish-listing all of the items she wants for the baby, painstakingly itemising and costing every buggy, bottle warmer and cot. She does so with the same precision as I do at the end of the month crying over my supermarket list – debating whether Sainsbury’s-own beans really are as good as Heinz.
Kurt’s male pride kicks in and he becomes blinded to his responsibilities as he strives to provide for his family. When an underhand job for a bit of cash goes horrifically wrong, we witness the true weight of paternal pressure and he crumbles, frustrated by his own helplessness and is pushed to the brink.
It’s in the darker moments that PJ Harvery’s hypnotic score really soars. It acts as a cinematic soundtrack providing a dialogue when no words are spoken. At ninety minutes long, Director Ian Rickson mentioned in an interview that the play reads to thirty-eight and so fifty-two are either silent or infused with PJ Harvey. The silence equally tells a palpable story in a beautifully considered stroke by Rickson.
But like a nest, vulnerable to the elements, what falls apart can be rebuilt. We realise this as the garden bulbs begin to bloom in the soil as if by some magical, stage trickery. Designer Alyson Cummins has created an inspired apartment, walls exposed and encased by twigs and leaves. It’s not perfect as the damp crawls up the furniture, but hey, it’s home and the best they have.
This two-hander is deftly delivered by Laurence Kinlan and Caoilfhionn Dunne. They lovingly cradle an imaginary baby with such care, you can almost see the weight in Dunne’s arms. She exudes strength in Martha, and despite their trauma, she holds everything together. Kinlan heartbreakingly captures the irrational impulse of a desperate and broken man, albeit swashed together with some lovely humour. They’re a great duo and the chemistry is effortless.
There’s something very human in McPherson’s translation and deeply resonant. The Nest is a heart-felt piece and we share in their anguish. It hurts all the more for knowing in these tough climates that there are many out there facing these desperate struggles. But we do the best we can and hope flowers blossom.
(Photo courtesy of David Sandison)