Alien Documentary review: the secret lives of men

PJ Gallagher leads a likeable trio of men who build things and talk their way around football, fishing and extraterrestrial life

 PJ Gallagher in the “anti-theatrical” Alien Documentary, part of Dublin Theatre Festival

PJ Gallagher in the “anti-theatrical” Alien Documentary, part of Dublin Theatre Festival

 

Project Arts Centre, Cube

***

If you want to get men to talk, the aphorism goes, get them to do something; in this case build a set for a young woman (Molly O’Mahony) for the performance of a piece of pretentious autobiographical art. The three men, who quickly emerge as the main characters in Alien Documentary, set to the task. The manual distraction enables them to converse casually about everything from Dublin gangsters to Colombian drug-dealers, football to fishing, domestic violence to Dylan Thomas, sexuality and sexual abuse. There is also a brief discourse about alien life: the advantages and potential liabilities of an invasion from outer-space. If this is a documentary about aliens, as writer-director Una McKevitt’s title suggest, the aliens are surely these men who stand before us, revealing the hidden truths of their species.

McKevitt’s previous work for the stage has drawn more overtly from real life than Alien Documentary, which is a fiction and almost a traditional play. The style, however, is resolutely anti-theatrical. The performers (PJ Gallagher, James Scales and Barry McKiernan) speak in near-monotone with lengthy pauses. This sets up a contrast between McKevitt’s naturalistic direction and the three central confessional moments, which emerge, unconvincingly, from the men’s chit-chat. There is a shift in language too, from the poetry of everyday speech to the self-conscious poetry of the stage monologue, and it is difficult for the performers to override the sense of stiltedness that ensues.

Still, Alien Documentary, in its form and content, is an enjoyable meditation on masculinity, anchored by three extremely likeable performances. It also says something interesting about the values we ascribe to “Art”, even if it doesn’t quite convince us in the execution.

Until 14th October

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