The setting for this 1984 play is Independence, Iowa; lifelong home of Evelyn Briggs. Her oldest daughter, Kess, is a university professor in Minneapolis, but she has come home at the request of her sister, Jo, who is concerned for their mother's mental health. The youngest daughter, Sherry - rebellious and amoral - wants only to finish high school so she can leave home for good.
The story begins with a homecoming: Kess, the eldest of the three daughters and the only one to have left home, returns for a visit at the behest of Jo, the middle daughter, on whom their mother’s oppressive dependence seems to have taken the worst toll, and who is near breaking point. She is her mother's carer and punching-bag combined, and is trapped by her own gentle nature and compromised self-esteem.
Also living at home is outspoken, rebellious teenager Sherry, with whom Kess is almost immediately at loggerheads, creating yet more tension to be defused by poor Jo. Torn between duty and the feeling that she will go insane if she does not break away from her mother, Jo turns to Kess for rescue but finds that the "strong" sister may not be as much of a bulwark as she hoped. The question becomes, can she be her own bulwark in a sea of dysfunction and disappointment?
Director, Sean Lynch, has assembled a cast of accomplished players for this Rail Theatre Company production, which will be presented at the Mullingar Arts Centre from May 3-5.
Mary Hughes plays Evelyn, the self-absorbed, domineering, manipulative mother. Although perhaps better known in Mullingar as a teacher at the Community College, Mary has been a member of the Rail Theatre Company since its inception. When she first came to Mullingar in the late 70s, Mary joined the drama society, under Paddy Whitelaw, although she has been involved in all aspects of Scór and drama all her life. She is the proud owner of two All-Ireland GAA medals: one for storytelling and one for her part in a novelty act, with Mullingar Shamrocks. Mary has appeared in several productions at the Mullingar Arts Centre, her favourite of which was probably Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers.
Mary said: “I have had challenging roles before, for instance in The Mai, but I think the part of Evelyn in Independence will really test me. I find it inspiring working with Sean Lynch and I have learned a great deal working on this play with Siobhán, Olga, and Gillian. These ladies have a very high standard of acting and are fantastic to work with. We have explored this play and have had many interesting debates and workshops on it. That’s the beauty of drama; it keeps your mind sharp and forces you to think deeply about all aspects of life!”
Cast in the role of Kess, the oldest daughter, and the only one to have moved away from home, is Gillian Flynn.
Siobhán Murphy plays Jo, who has pleaded with Kess to come home. Riddled with her own fears, uncertainties, and anxieties, this is another demanding role.
Evelyn’s youngest daughter who is played by Olga Aughey is an outspoken, rebellious teenager, three weeks away from her high school graduation. Age 19, she has assumed a devil-may-care, attitude, saying what she pleases, no matter what the consequences, or who gets hurt. Her mouth runs freely and easily.
Independence provides a fascinating look inside a family which is very much a product of today’s world. It is passionate and compelling. Don’t miss it!
Independence will be presented at the Mullingar Arts Centre from Thursday May 3 to Saturday May 5 at 8pm. Tickets are princed at €12 and €10 and are available from the box office at (044 ) 9347777.