Preview: On Raftery’s Hill

Rose Aitchison 26 October 2017

cn: sexual assault

On Raftery’s Hill, by Marina Carr, a modern Irish playwright, is a play about about ‘three generations of the Raftery family, who live together on their hill farm. It deals with the general decline of both family and land. The action of the play revolves around the interactions of the family and their neighbours, and the show deals primarily with sexual relations within a family, including difficult questions about whether the horrifying can become consensual, whether ignorance is innocence, and how, within the context of familial abuse, one can ever find the original perpetrator’, says Eimear Ryan-Charleton, director.

A concentration on sexual relations and tangled interpersonal dynamics seems prominent in Corpus this term, but Ryan-Charleton believes this play is different in that it ‘deals with sexual assault in a relatively unusual way – one in which it is not a single horrible event, whose repercussions ripple out affecting an entire life (though that could be seen in some characters’ relations) but where an entire life is built in its context, and some characters have known nothing else. This portrayal is both unusual and important, I think, in order to prevent the domination of a single narrative.’

This close, almost claustrophobic feeling, of characters isolated in a domestic setting, is reflected in Ryan-Charleton’s choice to use Corpus Playroom, where the ‘confines of the space’ can ‘add a lot to the performance, as the intensity of the action is upped, and audience members quite literally see things from different points of view.’

Music, explains Ryan-Charleton, is also crucial to the performance, as ‘one of the key aesthetic choices we made was to have all the music in the play sung by women. It is by no means a music heavy play, but the songs that feature, and the music that welcomes the audience into the theatre, have had a lot of thought put into them. The opening song will be Radie Peat’s version of Dark Horse on the Wind, a song about the disintegration of Irish society of glorious-revolutionary ideals to money-grubbing mé féiners. Peat’s voice is beautiful, and the song fits well, being, like Carr’s work, heavy in classical references, and also a link between the disintegration of family life shown in the play and the disintegration of the society in which that life takes place.

The power of the opening song will then be transformed into the power of the dialogue, as one of the main questions raised by the play is can the ‘damage caused by words’ be ‘compared to the damage caused by physical violence – at what point do harsh words become abuse?’

Overall, Ryan-Charleton wants ‘the audience to be able to imagine life in the shoes of each of the characters, and feel the struggle that we hope to portray over either utterly condemning, or utterly endorsing any of them.'

On Raferty's Hill is on at 9.30pm from Tuesday 24th October at the Corpus Playroom.