Lofi Hip Hop Beats are playing through the Dramsoc Theatre in the University College Dublin (UCD) Student Centre. An unmade bed lies on stage, and near it a school desk with an Irish dictionary and an abandoned school bag. Those few visual cues alone would remind anyone of their experience as a secondary school student preparing for the end of that chapter in their academic lives. It’s just as well because both of the characters we meet in In My Opinion, directed by Nessa Molumby and written by Laoise Molumby, are coming towards the end of their secondary school experience and both have completely different attitudes to the situation… even if they are sisters.
The diligent, focused fifth year Áine (played by Emmanuella Fatunbi) dreams of college. For her, college is her opportunity to reinvent herself and finally participate in some form of a social life. At school, she struggles to converse with her peers and constantly feels as if she is “boring” them.
“I could take bland, but not boring,” she admits in a heartrending monologue, one that Fatunbi knew would tug on her audience’s heartstrings thanks to her powerful performance.
In comparison, her younger sister Caoilfhionn (played very well by Eri Farrell) is preoccupied with her social life, and anything school-related other than lunchtime is the least of her concerns. Not only has she established herself as the most popular girl in her own year, she has dipped her toe in the social pools of her sister’s year, much to the annoyance of Áine.
Eri Farrell’s performance as the boisterous younger sister exhibits years of acting experience along with a clear ability to portray complex characters within the realms of student theatre and one-act plays. Having said that, throughout the play we see another side of Caoilfhionn as she admits her true thoughts about school, her family’s expectations and how she is constantly being compared to her older sister.
Although the total run-time of the play is forty-five minutes, the two sisters fill the time frame with fights, squabbles, tiffs and monologues, eventually making up and forgiving each other after all that sibling rivalry.
This play does not solely have one sibling relationship on the screen – sisters Nessa and Laoise Molumby are behind the play itself, and this shines through in their work. Despite the play being based on two sisters who fail to see eye to eye, these two have a great relationship in real life, insists director Nessa.
There are six years between the two and Laoise is still in school currently studying in fifth year, just like her character Áine. Any member of the audience would agree that it is surreal for a young writer to create such a deep, physiological relationship that avoids cliches and cringeworthy moments, unlike what seems to be the majority of sibling relationships in theatre.
Even the closing scene where the two sisters fall out over makeup – a common occurrence in many homes – seems so original and authentic. Nessa Molumby establishes that the main aim during the production of the play was to make the relationship as enjoyable as possible for the audience without falling into traps and clichés.
Perhaps one of the most genius features of the production is its use of props. Áine is seen dressed in blue, whereas Caoilfhionn is covered in red. This immediately establishes the contrast between the two siblings. Not only that, but their belongings follow this trend. In typical “siblings that share a room” fashion, Caoilfhionn’s red blanket may appear on Áine’s neatly made bed. This use of props is a subtle one, and it works extremely well.
Consequently, In My Opinion is a stellar play revolving around an original relationship between two sisters that could not be more different. The play is thoroughly enjoyable, riddled with contemporary references to modern living and tongue-in-cheek humour – so much so that your cheeks will be hurting by the end of it!
This production displays the talent of a director that knew exactly what they were doing, along with a writer that has a blindingly bright future ahead of them. On top of that, with the two rising stars playing both characters with a mastery and prowess of acting, it is clear that these sisters will go far. “In my opinion”, this play has it all.