Review: Ladybones, VAULT Festival

Sorcha McCaffrey’s Ladybones proves an incisive and insightful look at OCD without ever labouring its point 

“A can of Coke is just a can of Coke. Until it’s not.”

It takes real skill to write effectively about a subject without making your play ostensibly about that subject. A simplistic take on Sorcha McCaffrey’s Ladybones would be to call it an OCD play but that would be to deny its layers of subtleties and the depth of its actual subject matter which is far more wide-ranging.

McCaffrey plays Nuala, a junior osteology archaeologist whose quietly ordered existence is thrown into disarray upon the discovery of a skeleton which turns out to be that of a young woman. Throwing herself into finding out the story of the victim, she starts to identify with her, a journey that pulls too hard on the thread of everything holding her together.

For she does live with OCD and it is suffused throughout the script in the lightest of ways, a constant presence that sometimes bubbles to the surface but even when we don’t see it, it is there. Lucia Cox’s astute direction evokes this superbly, aided by Holly Ellis’ lighting work, probing the fine line between “being weird and being a weirdo”.

As Nuala discovers her sexuality and then expands the boundaries of that discovery, as she retreats to the bosom of her family when things get bad, the emphasis on inter-personal relationships becomes all-important. And in a neat twist, audience participation – sensitively procured on entering the theatre, an innovation that should catch on – underscores the significance of our own contributions here, the need to educate ourselves and understand better the challenges we may not even know our loved ones are facing.

Running time: 1 hour (without interval)
Ladybones is booking at the VAULT Festival until 24th February

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