Karen Cogan’s Drip Feed is an unabashed telling of one Cork woman’s journey through loss, rejection and the difficulty that is 90s Ireland as a lesbian. Its ambition to tackle many important and dark themes is admirable but the weight of so many prominent issues dilutes the impact.
In a year where we’ve seen the appointment of a Minister for Loneliness amid increasingly worrying statistics around personal isolation, Karen Cogan’s new dark comedy Drip Feed is likely to resonate with audiences concerned and curious about this issue. In this 60-minute solo show in The Bubble (Assembly George Square Theatre), we’re taken on a journey through Cork’s streets with Brenda: a sometimes humorous and sometimes desperately lost young woman in her thirties who’s struggling to come to terms with her own reality. Through the blurry lens of a several day
Drip Feed begins establishing the dismal scene of Brenda’s life by housing her on a stained sofa bed in her friend Veronica’s flat, which a minimal and disorderly stage accurately reflects. We quickly move from here to a telling scene featuring Brenda crouching atop a bin in her girlfriend’s back garden, where she’s obsessing over her girlfriend’s every characteristic and her possible affair with another woman in quick succession, all while bin juice seeps into her socks. Immediately, it’s apparent that Brenda is a woman with a great spark and warmth but little direction in her life.
Her several day bender is emotional and humorous and the way in which Cogan writes about Cork’s urban landscape and community is evocative and tactile; we can smell the mingling of soup and last night’s farts in how Brenda describes the charm and crassness of Irish pubs in her hometown. We can feel the goosebumps prick on our skin as the nosey next door neighbour’s shrill voice cuts through a moment of vulnerability for Brenda. We understand that only a local could speak about this affectionately, or call it home. Brenda herself is a pure,
Drip Feed is about a specific kind of isolation, one which comes from being stuck in a rut that you don’t want to acknowledge let alone pull yourself out of, and a sad blend of desperation and loneliness which come from having few meaningful roots left in your own hometown. While the show deals with several intersecting and important issues – loss, rejection, abandonment, small town closed-mindedness and dark experiences attached with being gay in 90s Ireland – it engages with them in too shallow a way to be truly impactful. Perhaps an hour is too short a time frame to expect a play to tackle all these themes in a thoughtful and deep way, but equally, it feels too frivolous to not give them this treatment. If these elements are all crucial in the making of Brenda, it can’t help but feel that their treatment should be more than surface- deep. So while Drip Feed makes an admirable and ambitious attempt to engage with these issues, it does not leave the viewer with a lasting message, thought or question which ultimately dilutes the power of Brenda’s story.