In a quiet New Jersey farmhouse, somewhere between Princeton and Trenton, Marjorie idles the day away. Her boredom is broken by a wasp sting but little does she realise that this heralds the beginning of day that will change her life forever. The arrival of a stranger to her home, allegedly wanting to make a phone call, soon turns sinister and Marjorie finds herself face to face with a rapist. After a violent attack and struggle the roles soon change and she becomes the one with the power. How she uses that power is up to her.
When her unsuspecting housemates, Terry and Pat, return from their respective jobs they are greeted by the grim reality of both Marjorie and her attacker’s actions. The three housemates have different opinions on what to do next, made all the more difficult by the attacker’s manipulative behaviour which pits the women against each other. Tempers fray as one bad deed begets another.
Extremities has no problem living up to its name. From the opening scene it is clear that this is a tale where emotions fluctuate rapidly and the drama intensifies with each passing moment. This excellent production easily overcomes some minor story issues through the exceptional performances of the cast. Tyrrell is powerful as Marjorie and explores the layers of this character, and the subject at hand, in a way that is both gentle and brutal.
Directed by Emily Foran the cast ably convey how polarising a she said – he said debate can be, especially when it comes to a topic as serious as rape. There are moments of gallows humour in Extremities, often from the social worker lingo used by Patricia (Mallory Adams) and also through dialogue from Raul (Fiach Kunz) that is purposely at odds with the dire circumstances. This is heightened by the palpable anxiety of the audience, resulting in nervous laughter throughout that serves to add a certain grotesqueness to an already terrible situation. Extremities plays on many emotions and presents a nerve racking experience that is not for the faint hearted.
Set in the early 1980s, and inspired by writer William Mastrosimone’s meeting with a rape survivor, Extremities has not lost any of its impact during the intervening decades. Arguably it is more pertinent than ever and it is hard not to draw parallels between this story and the recent rape trial in Northern Ireland, as well as the #MeToo movement.
Presented by Disappear Here Theatre Company this gut-wrenching production of Extremities explores the complex dynamic between the perpetrator and the victim by turning it on its head through reversal of the roles. The superb performances are reason enough to experience Extremities but coupled with the essential message at its core this proves to be a remarkable piece of crucial theatre
Runs until 10 November 2018 at The New Theatre, Dublin
Note: includes sexual violence and strong language.