From Sean O’Casey through Brian Friel to Conor McPherson, Ireland has spawned unforgettable drama about the violence and pain wrought by the Irish War of Independence. Swedish born Ann Henning Joceyln’s Only Our Own is an attempt to take a slightly different view to the usual one, exploring the affects of the Protestant Ascendancy through the eyes of one Anglo-Irish Protestant family over three generations.
Set in Connemara, like her recent Doonreagan – another attempt to breathe life into the well trodden Ted Hughes/Sylvia Plath saga by looking at Hughes’ relationship with Assia Wevill with whom he spent time in Connemara (and coincidentally, the house Henning Jocelyn now lives in) – Only Our Own dwells on the personal to the exclusion of wider, political contexts.
Perhaps Henning Jocelyn saw her account as a microcosm of the larger picture. Focussing on the Protestant/Catholic sectarian divide, laudably enough she tries to account for the adjustments imposed on one Anglo-Protestant family over a 24 year time span but that also looks back, in the recall of a grandmother, to former times of unrest in the 1920s.
Lady Eliza, the matriarch of the family – played with some style by veteran Australian actress Elaine Montgomerie – holds a secret she is determined to share before her death, apparently imminent. She was witness at the burning of the `big house’ in the upsurge of violence against the Anglo Irish Protestants in 1922 – a fact her daughter, Meg, has, in her turn, successfully tried to ignore. Enter Titania, Meg’s daughter, rebelling against the starched conventions of her upbringing and whose actions precipitate major upheavals and changes.
So far so good.
But Henning Jocelyn, a noted Scandinavian translator, unfortunately does not have the trick of credible, enlivening dialogue or insight. Nor does director, Lars Harald Gathe manage to instill pace or invention into a script that ultimately settles for bathos.
Cornelius Green as the fly-fishing father of the household almost manages the unenviable task of salvaging a project that otherwise remains stubbornly inert.
Only Our Own tells us it is our families who have the capacity to break our hearts and spirit. This very nearly broke mine.