top of page

By The Bog Of Cats - Irish Theatre Players

Reviewed by Kate O'Sullivan


From the moment the lights went down, the audience knew this was going to be something special. Even though By The Bog of Cats is loosely based on the Greek myth of Medea, it feels like a story all its own. The details that director Lucy Eyre has brought out of the text and straight onto the page and has assembled an all-star cast to embody the characters that we come to love, loathe and feel for. I would also recommend reading the Director's Notes in the available program, as they hold their own power and perspective.

For those who don't know the story, this is the prophetic tale of Hester Swane who attempts to come to terms with a lifetime of abandonment in a world where all whom she has loved have discarded her. Set on the bleak, ghostly landscape of the Bog of Cats, the story follows one woman's courageous attempts to lay claim to that which is hers, as her world is being pulled apart around her.

There isn't a weak link in the cast, who embody the small-town feeling and the way that relationships between people get built and unmade. Solonje Burns was an absolute tour-de-force as Hester Swane, pulling the audience's emotions around with her from the moment she entered the stage. Physicality, intonation, taking the power out of the room, and holding the audience's attention even in the silence - it was a masterclass that had the audience audibly gasping in the final scene. She was aptly supported by the rest of the cast, with particular note of both Skye Wiltshire's portrayal of Hester's daughter Josie, done with grace and nuance beyond her years, and Suzannah Chuchman's layered embodiment of the Catwoman - a role that so easily could have been pantomimed, but was instead given depth and groundedness. There are some moments where it would have been nice to see some more variation in a couple of performers energies, such as a little more outward frustration in Rebekah O'Brien's portrayal of Caroline Cassidy, more to give us a better insight into her side of the events as the direct contrast to Hester. There were also a couple of unstable accents from actors who don't have a natural Irish accent, as well as a few of the stronger Irish accents becoming a tad indecipherable at speed, but nothing that significantly detracted from the performances.

The technical details in this show were also a delight. The Irish Theatre Players stage is notoriously tiny, but the extension of the stage onto the floor, with the consistent colour and paint treatment throughout the set allowed it to feel expansive. The transition into the wedding (traditionally a break between Acts 1 and 2) was a little clunky, but this is mostly down to the significant set pieces that needed to be moved onto the stage. The use of curtaining to cover unneeded set flats helped those large elements that could not otherwise be moved to vanish into the background.

The lighting design enhanced the set and added atmosphere, as well as clearly transitioning us between locations as well as through the hours of the day as the show progressed. Of particular note were the dawn/dusk lighting, as well as the lighting effect downstage right in Act 3 (which I won't spoil), done through the curtain. It would have been nice to highlight the characters in the wedding scene on stage right when they were talking, as we did somewhat lose them in the dancing and other merriment. In the performance we attended, there were a couple of sound balance issues at times - notably in the wedding scene - where it was hard to parse what was being said over the music, which is largely down to there being no microphones used. But the music written by Myles Wright, used throughout the show, adds a lovely depth and complexity to the atmosphere of the show.

This is a show not to be missed. Based on the audience response, and the excellence shown on the stage, I would not be surprised to see it on some award lists. Get a ticket while you still can.

Solonje Burns as Hester Swane.

Reviewer Note: Kate has previously performed with members of this cast and creative team. Additionally, she has previously performed at Irish Theatre Players, most recently in 2021. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.


bottom of page