Little Gem, a debut play by Dublin playwright Elaine Murphy, co-produced by Gúna Nua Theater Company and The Civic Theatre, Tallaght, and opened at the Fringe Festival in Dublin in September 2008. The show was a sold-out hit, winning the Fringe Festival award and became a surprising box-office hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2008, making it Ireland's first production that received the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh (2009) award, the most prestigious award of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The play was shortlisted for the Irish Times best new play award and received The Fishamble New Writing Award for the best play premiered at the Fringe Festival in Dublin in 2008. Later in the same year, Elaine Murphy won the Stewart Parker BBC Northern Ireland Drama Award for Little Gem. This was followed by the Zebbie Award for best play, presented by the Association of Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters in 2009. Subsequently, Murphy was commissioned her second play, Ribbons, by the Abbey Theatre. It was originally staged as part of The Fairer Sex play-reading series at the Abbey in Dublin in 2009. Murphy’s comedy Shush was also commissioned by the Abbey and opened in June 2013. Between 2012 and 2014 Murphy was a participant of the Six in the Attic, a resource-sharing initiative at the Irish Theatre Institute.
In her play Little Gem Murphy employs a monologue form, often used by her peer Conor McPherson, a celebrated Irish playwright. Three related and intertwined monologues are rendered by three members of the same family ̶ grandmother Kay, daughter Lorraine and granddaughter Amber. The monologue accounts by women of three generations are alternated and fused into animated, witty and touching confessions of love, loss, loneliness and alienation in contemporary world. Grandma Kay who takes a full-time care of her husband Gem who has suffered a stroke, is facing loneliness, fatigue and a feeling of abandonment. She badly misses Gem, her friend, husband and lover. Her daughter Lorraine is a shop assistant recovering from an emotional breakdown experienced at her workplace. She has lost track of her husband, a no-good drug addict on the doss, who once broke her heart. Recently, she has seen him repeatedly in the streets. Feeling lonely and depressed, Lorraine cleans her house to exhaustion and finds it extremely hard to relate to her daughter and establish a genuine relationship with her. A psychiatrist tells her to do one nice thing for herself once a week. Meanwhile, her daughter Amber, a high school graduate, gets a job at a call centre and spends her spare time partying, drinking, snorting coke and wasting time with her idle good-for-nothing boyfriend Paul who dreams of going abroad. Suddenly Amber discovers she is pregnant.
The female trio undergoes an emotional crisis, forcing them to deal with their feelings of loneliness caused by the absence of significant men. A new hope is raised by the birth of a baby boy, eventually named after his grandfather. Little Gem becomes their gem, their true treasure, re-connecting the three generations of women.
Elaine Murphy has described her play as »an amalgam of women I have met in my life: hardworking, not too rich and not too poor ... women like us, struggling hard«. In Little Gem she has managed to portray the mundanity of everyday with tear-jerking concern, poignancy and a sense of humour. Love and death, loneliness, abandonment, aging, a challenging and unwanted motherhood are the main themes of this moving and amusing story of three women of the same family. A sense of betrayal, hardship, suffering and frustration is intertwined with unexpected and funny life situations, giving rise to both tears and laughter.
Translator Tina Mahkota
Director and Set Designer Andrej Jus
Dramaturg Tatjana Doma
Costume Designer Sara Smrajc Žnidarčič
Composer Branko Rožman
Lighting Designers Andrej Jus, Uroš Gorjanc
Language Consultant Jože Volk
Amber Liza Marija Grašič (guest performance)
Lorraine Barbara Medvešček
Kay Anica Kumer (guest performance)
Opening 15 September 2017
Performance duration: 1 hour and 40 minutes. One interval.
Lyrics of the song used in the production written by Nebojša Pop-Tasić.
The recorded song is performed by Štefica Stipančević (vocal), Branko Rožman (piano), Boštjan Imenšek (guitar).
We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Andrej Hajdinjak for his assistance.