At the centre of Thomas Kilroy’s powerful new play, The Shape of Metal, is the figure of Nell Jeffrey, one of the more remarkable creations of contemporary Irish theatre.
An artist and mother, at once capable of great evil and great sensitivity, unscrupulous and passionate, highly intelligent and given to outbursts of obscenity, she casts a large shadow over everyone about her. Her relationship with her two daughters, Judith, who remains by her side, and Grace, who disappears, forms the core of the play. While The Shape of Metal is a stimulating exploration of the nature of art it is, essentially, an intimate and moving portrayal of three women in one family.
‘Thomas Kilroy’s play has a sculptor, the 82 year-old Nell Jeffrey, at its heart. And seeing it is rather like watching a sculptor at work, chipping way at some unyielding material, in order to reveal, bit by bit, the shape that lies within. A hard lump of life is placed on stage and remains there, while the actors seek to penetrate its surface and knock away its obscurities. The form emerges over time, giving the play, for all the lurid drama of Nell’s past, a quietly meditative feel . . . a remarkably honest description of the play itself, a work which acknowledges its own inadequacies with the acute intelligence and unflinching integrity that have always marked Kilroy’s theatre.’ — Fintan O’Toole, The Irish Times