Mixed Marriage premiered in Dublin in 1911, and highlighted the 1907 dockers’ strike in Belfast, which championed for greater wages for shipyard workers. The strike provides a backdrop to the action of the play, and is utilised to show how idealistic principles are pursued in theory, but neglected in practice by those dwelling within a fractured society. Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, despite working towards a common goal, choose sectarianism as the philosophy by which they live, with devastating consequences.
The older generation, as portrayed by stubborn Protestant Old John Rainey, are far less tolerant of blurred edges than their younger counterparts; John Rainey perceives mixed marriage between Catholics and Protestants emblematic of all that is wrong in the world. His black-and-white perspective is frustrating and inarticulate – he merely believes there to be a vague sort of ‘queer difference between the Catholic and the Protestant’, and suggests that no real common dream or goal can be shared between the two. Yet John Rainey’s front room, which provides the dim, smoky setting for this play, is turned upside down when his son Hugh Rainey wishes to marry Nora, a local Catholic girl. Believing that, ‘half the religion in the world is a disease you get from your father’, Hugh represents a younger generation that is striving for unity, not discord.
stellar acting across the board, solid accents, and astute direction from Sam Yates
Hugh, and his younger brother Tom, expound the idea that, ‘People are the same the world over’, and that many past disputes were caused not by real grievances, but because, ‘some old men lost their tempers’. To say that the dockers’ strike is not a serious proposition to the younger generation would be inaccurate; however, the youth appear to regard the development of tolerance – for other religions, other beliefs, and viewpoints, all in an attempt to promote peace, as the ultimate goal.
Women in Mixed Marriage are confined to the roles of spectators and scullery dwellers, at the mercy of, and providing the bandaid for, the follies of men, and those women that attempt to intervene pay dearly for their efforts. A particularly touching scene between Mrs Rainey – played both comically and movingly by Fiona Victory – and Nora – a naive, passionate Nora-Jane Noone – reveals their helplessness in the face of destructive, ‘headstrong men’. With some stellar acting across the board, solid accents, and astute direction from Sam Yates, the themes in Mixed Marriage are made very real, and applicable, to the conflicts that dominate life in the 21st century.
**** 4 stars
Runs until 29th October