Writer: Ali Hardiman. Performer: Madi O’Carroll. Run time: 13.31 mins.
The first thing that strikes you about this monologue is the way that Cliona is dressed. Green shower cap, a blue boiler or hazmat type suit, goggles on her head and too big blue gloves offset by pink lipstick. She is creating a video diary inspired by Matt Damon’s film The Martian. The intention is that this will be left behind for future generations, to record for posterity what it was like to live through a global pandemic. It quickly becomes more than this. As she talks into the camera her video diary becomes more personal; delving into her childhood, friends, family and living situation. Like all diaries this one starts to show different strands of her life come together, pieces click into place and certain things become more visible.
Cliona met her best friend aged five in the junior infants class when there were both placed on the red table. For her it was love at first sight. Their friendship continued over the years, certainly long enough for them to see the film together at the cinema. Jack is her safe harbour but she doesn’t see what is right in front of her. He can’t keep seeing her so much as he is about to get married and start a family. This doesn’t dislodge Cliona’s self-delusion though. He is still her number one and she thinks that she can still be his. 29 days ago, he was the last person she hugged. At the time they didn’t know that lockdown was coming. He was good at hugs and it appears that she hasn’t had many throughout her life. She reflects that her mother’s hugs were very hesitant, scared, like she was afraid of breaking. There is dysfunction in her childhood. ‘One sister deceased, one sister a bitch, one brother always making their parents cry, an aunt who disappeared upstairs with strange men.’
The over-riding tone though is one of comedy. Cliona turns the painful into humour. Some people will feel sympathy, maybe like her, but many will find her difficult to take to despite the desire to paint a lighter tone. The mix of discomfort, comedy and emotional discovery have been features of previous Hardiman plays (e.g. actor in Fizzy Drinks With Two Straws, writer and actor in Disconnected) and it is a mix that works particularly well. When the moments of comedy break out of her dysfunction we get quite an insight into who she is. In the end, she decides that after this period of isolation is over, she will hug people more. It is a sweet moment that offers the hope of a less lonely road ahead.