Crocodile Fever by Meghan Tyler – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Meghan Tyler’s wild ride of a play takes the patriarchy apart, literally, with a chainsaw. It also takes the same chainsaw, wielded by two woman pushed to the edge, and uses it to dismember the stereotypes of Irish drama. Set in South Armagh, it is a gleeful, Martin McDonagh-esque black comedy with women in the driving seat.
The main characters are sisters, the good one and the bad one. The former, in Mrs Doyle glasses, buttoned down and obsessed with cleaning, is trapped looking after ‘Da’, paralysed upstairs. The other is a rebel, just out of prison and in the IRA. The actors, who are clearly having a fantastic time, perform with immense verve. The plot encompasses a saintly, dead mother, the Paras, a priest, and the tyrannical, abusive father. The surreal, hilariously grim trajectory of events is a delight, as is the writing. Contrasting, skillful moments include a monologue about the true meaning of ‘Africa’ by Toto – Tarantino via Armagh – and the sisters’ realisation that neither can abide the smell of their father’s pipe. No more is said, but it tells us all we need to know.
Tyler takes on the tropes of the Irish stage, from the claustrophobic family to the black terrorist comedy, and puts the women in charge. Crocodile Fever is a confident, seriously entertaining evening, but also a play with meaning layered behind the surreal antics.