Little GEM by Elaine Murphy, reviewed
by Malcolm Miller.
Showing 1 – 5 March 2011 at The Playhouse
This play has received many awards since it appeared at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2008, and we are fortunate that it has been brought here for us to see by Arts Projects Australia and Guna Nua Theatre.
On a deceptively simple set, three women sit in chairs. Each in turn is lighted and gives us part of her story as a monologue of about ten minutes. It took me about five minutes before I could attune my ears to the Irish accents; after that I was delighted by the sound.
The women are three generations of the family of James, known as ‘Gem’; his wife Kay, daughter Lorraine, and granddaughter Amber. Birth and death, life and love are the ingredients which combine into a rich domestic portrait of a family with its dramas and frustrations. Former footballer Gem is dying, and his wife Kay is physically discomforted by the absence of sex in her life, but tempted to acquire a fancy vibrator recommended by a friend. Although she can never bring herself to use it, it figures in the story. Lorraine has trouble with a harassing customer at work, and is sent by her boss for psychiatric treatment. Amber is adventurous and inclined to recklessness with drink, drugs and sex.
Amber’s pregnancy coincides with her lover’s sudden departure for Australia, but the result, the Little Gem of the title, arrives in time to delight his grandfather before he dies. Lorraine finds an admirer who takes her to Paris, and Kay has comic misadventure with her sex aid called Kermit.
A night of humour, strength, courage and honesty ends bravely with an ‘HEA’ or happy ever after when the errant lover returns from Australia, and the family of three women and the Little Gem affirm their unity.