Greener is Fiona Looney’s third and final instalment in the trilogy which saw Dandelions and October become smash hits in 2005 and 2009 respectively. The play tells the story of Jean (Deirdre O’Kane) and Nóirín (Pauline McLynn) who are neighbours and best friends and deals with their disillusionment with their own lives, as Nóirín’s son Davey, played by Fair City’s Ryan Andrews prepares for his Leaving Cert and possibly emigration. Their marriages are unsatisfactory, their lives are suddenly aimless and the whole play focuses on the idea that the grass is always greener on the other side, or as Nóirín says, “there is a party going on somewhere that I haven’t been invited to”.
When Nóirín’s husband Frank (Lorcan Cranitch) wins the lottery, the sudden change in fortune transforms not the characters, but their prospective situations, and not in the way one would think. The promise of extensions and new dishwashers becomes overshadowed by the undercurrent of deception, which is present at every juncture in the play. Indeed as the play progresses, lies and deceit come to represent the very foundation on which the drama is built – with everything from lustful texts to dead cats being emblems of secretive and untoward behaviour.
Without revealing the whole plot of the play, Greener is essentially about marriage. Neither Jean nor Nóirín appear to live fulfilled or happy lives, satisfying themselves with weekly gossip sessions over OK! Magazine and the derision of snooty neighbours. Jean is worried about her husband Colm’s (Declan Conlon) distance and lack of communication, but it is McLynn’s character that is presented as the housewife who is not only at odds with herself, but with life in general. As her son is reluctantly preparing for his Leaving Cert, she has to deal with the prospect of him leaving and is left unsupported by her passive husband. In this way, her whole raison d’être is questioned. The lottery win which O’ Looney throws into the mix complicates rather than alleviates problems and as this is juxtaposed with an affair, the play presents an unflinchingly honest, yet humourous account of married life and all its accompanying troubles.
Fiona Looney’s writing is spot on – she has a keen sense of the laughter, strife and complications that can emerge from domesticity. To quote Ann Marie Hourihane, “Fiona Looney understands that the domestic front is where a lot of wars converge”. There is no pretension about this play and that is why it works so well – it combines comedy and heartbreak in a clever and accessible manner. I went to see Greener fully expecting a play which catered only for women, specifically those of Jean’s and Nóirín’s epoch and had somehow imagined it to be an Irish Desperate Housewives, replacing Wisteria Lane’s glamour with Barry’s tea and doilies. And in a way, it kind of is an Irish Desperate Housewives – just much more relatable and in truth, funnier. Okay, the ‘murder’ within this play isn’t exactly a mirror of the high-scale criminality carried out by Bree and her mates and the affair is rather lacklustre in comparison to Gabby’s infamous tryst with her gardener, but the sensationalist ingredients are essentially the same.
At times, the relationship between Nóirín and Jean can be overly reliant on gags, but there are incredibly funny one liners, which for me, overshadow any repetitive gossip sessions. One remark from O’Kane caused raucous laughter throughout the Gaiety, as she commented on David Beckham’s endless tattoos, saying “if I got my hands on David Beckham, I wouldn’t know whether to ride him or read him”. It’s probably the kind of stuff you know your mother talks about, but you never want to hear and Fiona Looney exposes all of these witticisms and much more in her new play. Not only is Dalkey “too organic”, but neither Ryanair nor Sinéad O’Connor manage to escape the wrath of O’ Looney’s pen.
Admittedly the target market for Greener is probably the Irish female who would likely be friends with McLynn’s and O’Kane’s characters, but to exploit a battered old cliché, I really feel that there is something in this play for both genders and all generations. When I saw it at the Gaiety, there were mothers and sons, whole families, grandparents and groups of friends all in attendance and we were all united for the two hours and fifteen minutes of the play’s duration through laughter. Ryan Andrews’ character Davey represents the typical teen who would rather do anything to avoid study – playing computer games, eating cake and dashing off to training and he is a fantastic addition to the play, giving a voice to the younger generation in O’ Looney’s account of marriage and the struggle for self-control therein.
Greener is running at the Gaiety Theatre until May 26th and it is well worth going to see – there are also great prices for students and if you get there early enough, like me, you might just get an upgrade!