From the outside, Alannah seems content: her home is in pristine condition, keeping her occupied for the best part of each day. It’s a quiet existence – all the more so with her sister Fianna’s long absence. But is she really happy? And could there be a deadly dark secret ready to burst out of her given the right (or wrong) combination of events?
Meghan Tyler’s new play Crocodile Fever is set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, a particularly bloody and strife-filled period in the country’s history. This feels like a perfect setting for a number of reasons; thanks to polar opposites like Brexit and the TV series Derry Girls, The Troubles are at the forefront of people’s minds more than ever and permeating the national consciousness, and the violent reputation attached to this time could not be a more apt backdrop for the story that unfolds – Tyler’s script taps into the dark humour that you can imagine would have prevailed then, and feels so needed now. Fianna and Alannah’s rage is catharsis for us all.
Grace Smart’s immaculately designed set shows us Alannah’s prim & proper kitchen and living room area, as well as a front door and slightly obscured corridor and staircase. The shrine to their dead mother is a particularly nice touch, highlighting the importance that she still has in the house, as well as the power that religion holds over Alannah (an aspect of life that’s obviously rather vital when you’re considering Northern Ireland). The baby pink colour scheme that represents Alannah provides a great contrast for events later on in the play, its meek & overtly feminine connotations mocked by the outcome of the sisters’ anger.
Lucianne McEvoy’s performance twitches with a nervous energy, showing that Alannah’s obsessive nature runs deep; the routines that shape her life have started to control her, and she doesn’t seem to know it. But then Fianna returns and shakes things up immediately – Lisa Dwyer Hogg plays the role of the rebellious sister with a glint in her eye, but it’s always clear that she cares deeply for Alannah and just wants her to experience the same sense of freedom that she has enjoyed in recent years.
With the setting, the violence, and the language (not to mention the dark humour), there are clear parallels with the work of Martin McDonagh – though it’s the power of sisterhood that rings out loud and clear, as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti…
My verdict? A bloody & brutal celebration of sisterhood, set against a violent backdrop with some cracking tunes – Lucianne McEvoy & Lisa Dwyer Hogg are on great form.
Crocodile Fever runs at Traverse Theatre until 25 August 2019. Tickets are available online or from the box office.