Up the Hill Jackie

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Up the Hill Jackie
Published 16 Aug 2017

The fight for abortion rights in Ireland is both an anachronism, and an urgent struggle that needs every crumb of publicity it can get. So in some ways, Áine Ryan’s play is a welcome addition to the conversation, dramatising the story of a young girl whose older sister flies her to London to rid her of an unwanted pregnancy.

But it’s not quite an argument for abortions on Irish soil. It’s a little more complicated, a little more twisted than that. Real-life sisters Áine Ryan and Erin Ryan play two girls who are left mothering each other after their parents’ deaths. Áine must have drawn at least a little on her own biography to write her part, that of a fiercely ambitious young playwright, eager to have a show produced in the UK. Hopefully, Erin’s role is less true to life: she’s an endearingly, infuriatingly bouncy teenager who harbours increasingly delusional dreams of keeping her baby, and marrying its much older father.

The pair are endlessly watchable, getting trapped in hilarious, totally believable outbreaks of bickering. The play’s increasingly surreal narrative is less so, as they raise funds by strumming ukeleles in a strip club and negotiate deeply odd womb-related plot twists.

This close-knit duo are full of enough spirit to keep the audience on side, even through the stranger stretches of their journey. I’d love to see what they could do with a bigger team: a director to reimagine the awkward gaps between scenes, or a designer to help shape Bedlam’s huge stage. This bittersweet jaunt is full of promise.