A new play at the Abbey Theatre written by Thomas Kilroy inspired by Inspired by German dramatist Frank Wedekind’s 1891 masterpiece Spring Awakening.
There is an archetypal story that can be found in folklore, fairytales and mythology and it recurs again and again. It is the ‘coming of age’ narrative whereby the young gain wisdom, overcome adversity and become adults. Thus, each culture reproduces. The young learn and adapt, society is newly interpreted and modified and each generation inherits and subsequently passes on the values and norms of their parents.
This process of ‘take-over’ from generation to generation is fundamental to the survival of a culture. Hence so many stories and the high value placed on the wisdom therein. We see this in The Godfather, Harry Potter and even the story of Moses – the storyline is similar in each case – an alternative life beckons for a short while but eventually one’s true nature wins out and the inherited core values are embraced.
There is a particular variation of this theme which we all find disturbing and is at the root of Kilroy’s new play. What if “there’s something rotten” in society? What if it’s a monster? Who will inherit a culture of moral cowardice, oppression and miss-shapen values? Stories such as Sophocles’ Oedipus, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet deal with this variation – they are stories of doom. Tragedies. A rotten society, a deviant culture must not be passed on – the situation for the young is hopeless.
Christ Deliver Us is not about Ireland, the 50’s or religious oppression – it is a variation of an age-old story. It is a warning. Each person must interpret the world and carryies a responsibility to be true to their own values. When this is not possible, as was the case for the young characters in this play, the situation is unsustainable. A society that hands over moral authority to others – in this case the church – cannot survive. There is no inheritance.
In the play we find three main characters at the boundary of adulthood. Each in their own way experiences the stifling of ambition and the suppression of their individuality. We find a society in crisis where even the likeable mother (Winnie’s) and father figures (the Canon) are bereft of courage that they fail to assert their moral authority.
This is a society where the voice of reason ( Fr Seamus) is quite literally stifled – incapable of being heard. Against these odds their is no possibility of a happy ending – the young are trapped and left with just questions unanswered and wishes unfulfilled. Here too we are reminded of the primal reality that sits immediately below the surface of any society – hence the savagery of what we see. This is the consequence of the malfunctioning society – the ironic price of ignoring the ‘real’ is that it wells up uncontrollably – the play contains scenes of rape, masturbation and physical violence.
Christ Deliver Us resonates long after the performance.
Congratulations to Thomas Kilroy, Wyane Jordan and the Abbey for such a superb production.
Christ Deliver Us! by Thomas Kilroy from Abbey Theatre on Vimeo.