Dublin Fringe reviews: Gays Against the Free State! BlackCatfishMusketeer, Traitor and Tryst
The anarchic clatter of agit-prop has many things to say about the position of LGBT people in Irish society...
Bristling sincerity: Oisín McKenna in Gays against the Free State!
GAYS AGAINST THE FREE STATE ★★★
Smock Alley Theatre
This anarchic clatter of agit-prop has many things to say about the position of LGBT people in Irish society. The sharpest argument concerns the perception that – to win last year’s referendum and to further the cause of tolerance – a safe, middle-class, monogamous version of homosexuality has been nudged towards middle Ireland while other colours in the LGBT rainbow have been cautiously muted.
Much of the piece takes place in a version of the RTÉ Prime Time studio where Miriam O’Callaghan – incarnated as a moustachioed drag queen – hosts a debate between a smooth gay man in a suit (boo!) and a less polite gay woman bedecked with badges (yay!)
Though the script does have some fun with the latter’s posturing, we are never in much doubt as to where sympathies lie. Incorporating video, song and self-conscious downstage asides, the production is so broad it occasionally threatens to burst through the theatre walls. (“Middle Ireland” is personified as a red-haired teacher.) But the bristling sincerity is also an undoubted strength. You leave the space whistling the message.
Until Sept 24th
Disguises are necessary in Cyrano de Bergerac, one of the inspirations behind Dylan Coburn Gray’s new play, aptly described as an “internet epistolary”. But in the digital dating game disguises come as default: masks of misleading pictures or chatroom poses, a risk of disappointing encounters or missed connections.
Among a generation fluent in emoji and primed to think in gifs, Adam (Ste Murray) and Zadie (Catherine Russell) express it all with an enviably quick command of language: they never meet, but “chat”, as director Claire O’Reilly’s nimble staging recognises, the way screwball comedies used to speak. They are further assisted by an ebullient Aoife Spratt, a meme made flesh, who explains their attachments: “I am the picture of a starfish” “I am the looped image of a North Korean dictator clapping”.
Charming, smart, whimsical and achingly right-on, the script is often as overloaded as that title (TMI, we used to type). But that, you feel, is the peril for romantics in the smart phone era, too curious, widely informed and dithering to know anything about themselves for sure: “I definitely don’t not miss you,” they venture. Aww.
Until Sept 24th
Set in the near future, writer and director Shane Mac an Bhaird’s heartfelt but earnest drama draws its inspiration from the turbulent mood of our times, exploring how popular will and aspirations are thwarted by financial and institutional interests.
On the cusp of election victory, left-wing leader Grace (Roseanna Grace) finds herself struggling between idealism and compromise. She distrusts her shadowy advisor Bannion (Aonghus Óg McAnally), argues with her fatalistically purist old comrade Lizard (Kevin C Olohan) and remembers her idealistic, doomed lover Finbar (Jamie Hallahan).
This rather neat set-up is hampered by dialogue that veers between dialectical arguments, plot exposition and self-conscious rhetoric. As a result, the cast, despite game efforts, too often come across as points of view rather than fully-formed characters.
There are intriguing moments with some potential: Lizard aspires to having a tail, while Grace’s brief encounter with Finbar’s mother (Gillian McCarthy) has an authentic ring. But for a play with such obviously passionate motivations, it’s a strangely conventional and unmoving affair.
Until Sept 24th
A young couple prepare for their impending wedding by spending most evenings in drunken celebration and most mornings in a fug of hangovers. “Do you ever worry we’re not ha-ha alcoholics?” wonders bride-to-be Rachel. Her groom elect, Finbarr Doyle, demurs over the hair of the dog. If this is maturity, asks Jeda de Brí and Doyle’s three-hander, where are the consequences?
They arrive plentifully in the shape of Clodagh Mooney Duggan’s Rachel, the much-dishonoured maid of honour. A drunken house party some weeks ago brought all three friends closer together, with unanticipated results. “It’s Matt’s,” Rachel announces.
Mark Cantan’s recent play Jezebel treated such encounters as a mathematical comedy, but Sickle Moon’s production is an agitated portrait of assured mutual destruction, measured out in duologues about betrayal, consent, envy and abuse. Fans of verbal laceration will enjoy certain rejoinders (“She’s my wife!” “But you came in me!”), although under de Brí’s direction, there’s something just as cautionary in the cramped staging, awkward whenever all performers share the space.
Three is a crowd, it turns out.
Until Sept 24th