by Sam Mooney
I spent some time in Donegal thanks to the Toronto Irish Players’ production of Frank McGuinness’s play Factory Girls at the Alumnae Theatre. It’s the first play by Frank McGuinness that I’ve seen and also the first production by the Toronto Irish Players. Both are now on my see again list.
Factory Girls follows 5 women working in the inspection department of a shirt factory in Donegal in the ‘70s. The factory is old, the economy is crap, the manager is new, the union rep is old which means there’s lots of built-in tension and conflict.
The tension and conflict isn’t just between the factory girls and management – it’s also between the girls themselves. They’re like family; laughing one minute, bickering and squabbling the next. Not a surprise to learn that McGuinness based the play on his mother, grandmother and aunts and their experience as factory girls.
Through the bickering and laughter, we learn about each of the women and their lives outside of the factory.
The women are the focus of the play, and their performances were excellent. The two male roles are almost incidental. All of the characters were annoying and endearing by turns, and I found myself thinking of them as people rather than actors portraying people.
I had a couple of small quibbles. Accents – I know it’s difficult to maintain an accent, but it is so jarring when a character slips out of the accent; it takes so much away from the performance and breaks the rhythm. A couple of the actors had difficulty maintaining their accents. This isn’t unique to the Toronto Irish Players – I’ve seen a few shows lately where the actors have trouble maintaining their accents.
The other may be more about me – my attention span seems to be getting shorter as I get older. The first act felt too long. The second act was perfect.
Quibbles aside, I really enjoyed Factory Girls. Terrific performances and tightly directed – definitely worth seeing.
– Factory Girls is playing until March 6 at the Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street)
– Evening at 8 on February 25th, 26th, 27th, March 4th, 5th, 6th
– Matinees at 2 on February 21st, 28th
– Ticket prices are $15.00 for matinees and $18.00 for evening performances
– Tickets available by calling 416 440 2888