Marina Carr’s On Raftery’s Hill is a bleak family drama, with a family as dark and twisted as a dead, bonsai tree.
Red, the father, is in his sixties and rules his family with fear and brutality. His traumatised son Ded refuses to come into the house, sleeping in the cow byre, covered with cow dung and playing the fiddle. Red’s mother Shalome is losing her mind, attempting to leave the house and make her way back to the village on an almost daily basis.
SHALOME: Goodbye Raftery’s Hill. I shall not miss you. (Strews flowers grandly over landing, stairs, kitchen below.) Goodbye disgusting old kitchen and filthy old stairs. I shall never climb you again. Never. Goodbye Slieve Blooms, goodbye Mohia Lane, Black Lion, Ruedeskank, Croggan, Mucklagh. How could anyone be happy in a place called Mucklagh?
Red’s daughter Dinah runs the house, keeping him in whiskey and also keeping his bed warm for him, as she has done since she was a child. His youngest child Sorrel seems to be the only one of them free from the family curse and likely to escape as she is being courted by a young man from the village.
The fields outside the house are filled with the corpses of rotting animals: the sheep and cattle that Red tortures and doesn’t bother to bury, choosing instead to leave them to bloat and fester. But the rot in his fields doesn’t come even close to the rot in his home.
RED: We were big loose monsters, Mother, hurlin through the air, wud carnage in our hearts and blood under our nails, and no stupid laws houldin us down or back or in.
On Raftery’s Hill is a slow extinguishing of all hope. The brutal father destroys everything he owns, and that includes his family. Sorrel is always the one who’s going to get away and be saved, but after the brutal ‘skinning’ Red inflicts on her, she’s caught and trapped like all the other poor animals on the farm. There’ll be no escape or happy ending for anything living on Raftery’s Hill.
Publisher: Faber and Faber (included in Marina Carr: Plays 2)
Cast: 4M, 3F