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Small Miracle

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 21 April 2008

An Irish caravan site doesn’t seem the most likely setting for a miracle, but this is no ordinary place. Neil D’Souza’s first play examines the minutiae of 21st century family life, and finds that maybe there is something miraculous about it. Jo Fletcher-Cross was at the Tricycle for the first night…

You certainly know exactly where you are when Small Miracle begins. Irish music is blaring and the set is a giant picture postcard from Knock featuring a rather old-fashioned caravan. Gobby Dublin teenager Sadie (Ella Vale) is onstage from the beginning; a vision of 13-year-old apathy and boredom with her black eyeliner, messy hair and rock chick clothes. Her demands for cigarettes from careworn site manager Barry (Peter Dineen) hint at a little girl desperately trying to be an adult, or at least look as if she doesn’t care what the grown ups think.

The grown ups are a mixed bunch, culturally and emotionally. Sadie’s mother, Bronagh (Gina Isaac) is harassed to the point of desperation by the demanding and despotic mother of her Asian partner, Arjun (Kulvinder Ghir). Meera (Souad Faress), despite being a Hindu, has dragged them to Knock to attend an all-night vigil at the shrine of the Virgin Mary, who allegedly made an appearance at the local church in 1879.

As the story begins, they seem a fairly happy family, even with Meera’s constant badgering of Bronagh. Although Sadie acts like a typical stroppy teenager, she is devoted to Meera and loves to hear her talk about happy endings in Indian movies and epic adventures from Hindu mythology. Bronagh and Arjun are a tactile couple, and hints of a violent relationship with Sadie’s father make this seem like a sweet, almost idyllic situation, a happy ending.

Sadie sneaks away to make secret phone calls to a friend at home, but these one-sided conversations reveal a loneliness and a need for attention and love that is touching and pathetic. A truer picture begins to emerge when Sadie makes a new friend and begins to have blackouts. Bronagh is frightened and confused about what is happening to her child, and frustrated by Meera, and eventually Arjun’s, willingness to believe in miracles.

Layers are stripped away until a tragic truth begins to emerge, and as the family disintegrates, a new relationship begins as Meera is revitalised by the attentions of Barry. Despite the sorrow and despair that comes to the surface, there are a lot of funny moments. Arjun’s attempts to break free of his boring job and life and become a successful writer provide light relief – and also some hard decisions. The delightful love affair embarked on by Meera and Barry is sweet and poignant, and provides a stark contrast to the faltering partnership of Bronagh and Arjun.

In the end, Bronagh’s love and concern for Sadie is the glue holding them all together. Whether there are miracles occurring is left for us to decide, but there is certainly something special about the mother and daughter clinging together, desperate for love and a resolution to their problems. What is miraculous is that perhaps there is a happy ending here, even after all the sadness.

Small Miracle is at the Tricycle until 7 July



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