Married to a Cave Man is set in north Dublin in the dark days of Ireland’s economic crash. It centres on three marriages, each of which is experiencing a rough patch that’s about to turn a whole lot rougher. It’s a story of frustration, desperation and regret. It might not sound like it, but it’s a comedy.
Stephen and Nancy Cole have two boys under three. Nancy had always been vocal about the need for mothers to give up work for the first few years of their kids’ lives. She did so — and is now barely clinging onto her sanity. Stephen can tell that something's up with her but he doesn’t investigate too hard. After a tough day in a job he doesn’t enjoy, he just wants some down time with his beloved video games.
Next door to Nancy and Stephen live the McNamaras, Julie and Vincent. Julie works in advertising, while Vincent stays home with their baby and Jeremy Kyle (not literally). He’s besotted with his daughter and understands that his wife has the greater earning power. Still, he can't help but wonder if he has somehow stunted his masculinity. He has no idea that Julie wonders the same thing and is sliding towards an affair.
Across the street live the Dunlops, Leo and Deirdre. Leo, a serious record collector, has been unemployed for six months. Deirdre works as a PA in a dreary plumbing supplies company. They desperately want a baby but it isn’t happening, despite a sexual regime that has left them mentally and physically bruised. Deirdre tortures herself with the idea that her minor weight problem is to blame and spends every night on exercise bike. Leo, meanwhile, has given up on himself and is now merely pretending to look for work.
Stephen is the first of the husbands to decide that what he really needs — nay, deserves — is a man cave, a place where he can kick back and be alone. He empties out the garage and turns it into a shrine to gaming. Vincent likes the idea and follows suit, making himself landlord and sole patron of a little mock pub. Before long, Leo completes the set, clearing out the old paint cans and dragging in hundreds of records.
Nancy, Julie and Deirdre react to these moves with varying degrees of horror, disgust and low-level violence. Tensions that had been bubbling under now bubble very much over and before long, all three relationships are in crisis.
‘Mammy! Lookit! Mammy, lookit! Mammy! Mam! Lookit! Mam! Mam! Mammy! Mam!’
Nancy Cole continued staring at the toaster. Its contents were about to pop. As soon as they did so, she would turn around and bear witness to whatever it was that had so excited her older son. Until that moment came, she wouldn’t move a muscle.
This was something she had only recently started doing – inventing little rules, lines that she wouldn’t cross. One day recently she had found herself vowing that she wouldn’t swallow her latest mouthful of tea until her younger son stopped banging his xylophone with her good spatula. She wound up drooling down her chin and almost choked to death while attempting to stifle a sneeze, but she held out. You didn’t have to be a trained professional, she knew, to see what was going on here. These were attempts to exert some small measure of control. A darker personality might have resorted to self-harm; Nancy stared at her toaster.
The toast popped. As ever, both slices cleared the device entirely and flopped on the counter-top like landed fish. Free at last, Nancy spun around. She immediately regretted not having done so sooner. Aidan, it seemed, had been painting the wall behind him with Weetabix.
‘No!’ she cried, grabbing a cloth and dashing across the lino. ‘No, no, no! Anything but Weetabix! That stuff dries like conc-’
The words died in her throat in the moment when her bare left foot slipped on a discarded bib and rammed with some speed into the table leg. She lost her balance somewhat but not enough to bring her crashing to the floor. That she wound up there anyway was due to the fact that her knees buckled (and her stomach flipped and her eyes bulged) as a bolt of bright white pain shot up from her toes to the crown of her head and back again.
‘Mammy falled,’ Aidan noted, in the flat tone of a news-reader reporting a nil-all draw.
Married to a Cave Man is now fully funded. I'm really grateful to everyone who supported the project either directly, by spreading the word, or by simply not punching me when I kept going on and on (and on) about it. Your pledges/marketing/pacifism have meant a lot.
Married to a Cave Man is 75% funded. My wife, who has some book-learnin', tells me that this is more than half. WAY more. She tried to explain how much more but she lost me. I did what I always do when talk turns to numbers - I faked a seizure to get out of the conversation. Anyway: huge thanks to everyone who has pledged support.
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