In Mark O'Rowe's play Crestfall, three women recount their lives in a brutally patriarchal and unforgiving town where they are used, abused and manipulated by those around them. It was first performed at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, on 20 May 2003 (previews from 15 May).
The play comprises three monologues, delivered in turn by three female characters. Olive Day sleeps around with any man she can find, though she never charges. Married to the volatile Jungle, she also has a secret lovechild with the local pimp, Inchy Bassey. Alison Ellis is married to the Bru but struggles to connect with him and tires of her lonely existence. Thirdly, drug-addled prostitute Tilly, forced into a botched abortion by Inchy because of his situation with Olive, decides to let the town know the truth about their secret child, leading to a devastating and bloody finale.
The Gate Theatre production was directed by Garry Hynes and designed by Francis O’Connor, with Aisling O’Sullivan as Olive Day, Marie Mullen as Alison Ellis and Eileen Walsh as Tilly McQuarrie.
The play received its UK premiere at Theatre503, London, on 27 November 2007 in a production directed by Róisín McBrinn and designed by Paul Wills. The cast was Pauline Hutton, Niamh Cusack and Orla Fitzgerald.
In his foreword to Mark O'Rowe Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2011), O'Rowe explains his original conception of the play: 'Both Howie the Rookie and Made in China were written for exclusively male casts, so I now decided, out of perversity, I suppose, or for the sake of symmetry, or maybe just to nourish the feminine side of my poetic soul, that I would write a play for a cast which was exclusively female, though it would retain the extremity and darkness and vulgarity and violence (I know, I know; all these masculine qualities), of the earlier work.'
O'Rowe revised the play in preparation for its publication in 2011, making changes 'mostly the language, which I found too spare, too humourless, and almost wilfully contradictory in its lack of flow or rhythm.' He also cut one scene – 'a scene of (almost) bestiality' – which, according to the author, had been received with particular 'horror or outrage' by the audience at the Gate, though his decision to cut the scene was based on the need to resolve 'a minor narrative issue that its existence exposed'. 'The result,' he writes in his foreword, 'is a better play (in my opinion, and once again, what value does that have?), though how much better, I can’t really say. A little better, anyway. Maybe. Or not much worse, in any case.'