First, Deirdre appears, ‘talking out of darkness’, giving a kind of panoramic description:
The sun is going down behind the hills, the sky is grey. There’s hills at the back there, green. I can’t hardly see them because the stones between here and there are grey, the street is grey. Somewhere a bird is singing and falling in the sky. I hear the ice cream van and the traffic and helicopter overhead.
Therepetition of ‘grey’ conveys the drabness of the urban setting which seems to block out the natural features beyond. The second part of the description concentrates on sounds, with those of the town- traffic/ice cream van drowning out nature (the bird singing).
The helicopter, like the sound of gunfire mentioned later, reminds the audience of the ongoing background of violence in Belfast at this time.
The scene is developed by means of a series of separate exchanges, conversations and monologues. While this scene might appear as a sequence of apparently unconnected exchanges, there are a number of connecting threads running through it.
The sound of a distant explosion brings the talk round to the Troubles and Nora tells a story of soldiers messing up her garden in pursuit of a suspect.
Triggered, perhaps, by the discussion of the shootings and burning buses, Marie then delivers a monologue recalling her marriage. She relates how her wedding car was a ‘big Saracen’(armoured personnel carrier) and the soldiers escorted her to the church.
There is some general gossip about neighbours, TV programmes and diets, interrupted by
a thunderous knocking on the door. This is a dramatic moment as it follows
the sound of gunshots, . . . leading the women - and the audience - to expect some kind of raid. It is, in fact, Deirdre, asking to come in.
She is not forthcoming when asked questions but Marie is kind to her, allowing her to shower, and giving her food and clothes. The fact she is wearing a ‘white mini-dress’ when she arrives suggests some connection with Marie, as this is similar to Marie’s wedding dress. The others speculate about who she might be.
The women are aware of the impact of the men in their lives, even though they are no longer present. The most significant one is clearly Michael and his picture is referred to on several occasions.
Marie hints at having seen a
wee girl, all in white. Significantly, before she says this, she
casts a quick nervous glance at the photograph of her late husband Michael and says the girl looked like him. This vision is, however, dismissed with laughter.
Cassie hides her money behind the picture of Michael. As she later explains, she hides it in Marie’s house because her mother (Nora) is so thorough in her housework that she would find it if it was hidden at home.
We next learn more about the husbands of Marie and Cassie
one man dead and the other in a prison cell and the manner of the arrest of Cassie’s husband Joe, told in an entertaining way by Nora.
Cassie, typically, defends her father against Nora’s accusations that he was violent when drunk; in a similarly contrary manner, she is critical of her own husband. Marie, however, is always positive about her husband’s memory, telling her children that
Your daddy was a good man and a brave man.
The last two speeches take the form of further monologues. One, from Cassie, shows her cynicism about men, although she remains loyal to her image of her father, while Marie reviews her impressions of various men (her brother, Cassie’s brother, Cassie’s husband), and maintains her belief that her husband Michael loved her, adding poignantly that:
Sometimes he said he loved me when he’d no drink in him at all.
At the end of the scene, Deirdre enters the room and removes the money which Cassie had earlier hidden behind the picture of Michael
There is a developing impression of the different personalities and interests of each of the women (Marie: kindness to others; Nora: dreams of domestic improvement; Cassie: dissatisfaction and cynicism)
Marie bursts in, talking in a harassed manner to her demanding son off stage. Characteristically, she starts two domestic tasks ‘simultaneously’– this is typical of her multi-tasking ability.
Nora’s daughter Cassie enters, her attempt to embarrass Marie with her joke about red underwear being typical of her ‘sharp-tongue’.
Much of the ensuing conversation involves Cassie trying to persuade Marie to come to the club that night. Marie makes numerous excuses (I’ve no one to watch the kids/I’ve nothing to wear, etc). During this ongoing discussion, Nora is making remarks about her own concerns, revealing herself to be very house-proud, with her main concern being to renovate her front room.
Deirdre’s third monologue is longer than the previous ones: she talks about a knife which in some way appears to represent
a wee bit of hard truth. These references mean little at this stage but their significance becomes clearer later on.