Pom Boyd and Séan Millar’s Shame is a theatrical punk performance like no other. Blending original live music (of a very Velvet Underground persuasion) with a personal narrative, the piece stands out in its eccentricity and mysterious allure. As the audience piles into the theatre, each is handed a roll of tissue paper, for reasons undisclosed until the final moments of the performance, thus creating a sense of playful curiosity and anticipation.
Boyd lays her own shame bare on the stage for all to see, telling tales of a troubled childhood with mentally ill parents – exploring the resentment, pride, and love she harbours for them to this day. With fantastic performances from all involved, the piece is brimming with memorable lines and lyrics, which resonate deeply with anyone bearing the heavy weight of shame. The familiar experience of looking at your feet to avoid being seen, the feeling that you can not do anything ordinary people do – Boyd draws in her audience by evoking memories of failure and self-doubt that are buried deep within our psyches.
The piece’s message gradually becomes more and more profound, culminating in Boyd’s claim that she is “an unreliable witness to [her] own life,” with shame shrouding her memories like a foggy lens. To illustrate this point, Boyd explores some of her and her mother’s biggest failures, looking at them with fresh eyes, eventually coming to the realisation: it was not that bad after all. As the audience observes this journey of Boyd’s it becomes apparent how unfounded and unfair the shame we carry with us truly is. The use of personal stories to make this point means that the message is not preachy, or over-intellectualised, but rather a natural conclusion we all can come to.
Boyd skilfully delves into the aetiology of self-doubt without casting blame or resentment, divulging that she was fed her shame by those whose shame was fed to them. The audience is encouraged to realise their secret pride in being loyal to the shame of others, and to let it go.
This frank and honest performance by Boyd is boldly insightful and deeply relatable. Shame deals with complex and hard-hitting subject matter in a truly unique manner, encouraging healing and forgiveness, leaving a lasting impression as a poignantly uplifting piece of Irish theatre worthy of pride.
Peacock Stage at the Abbey
September 21st & 22nd, 9.15pm, Saturday matinee at 2.30pm, €16/€14
Review by Courtney Byrne