If We Got Some More Cocaine: On top of the world with nowhere to go

Two young men get higher than they’ve ever been in John O’Donovan’s new play and wonder about how to come down

Alan Mahon and Josh Williams in If I Had Some More Cocaine I Could Show You I Love You. Photograph: Keith Dixon

Alan Mahon and Josh Williams in If I Had Some More Cocaine I Could Show You I Love You. Photograph: Keith Dixon

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If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You
Project Arts Centre, Dublin
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It isn’t unusual for two young men to spend Halloween night on the tiles. But Mickey and Casey don’t have much choice. Disturbed by gardaí during the burglary of Casey’s own home, they escape onto the rooftop to wait things out, accompanied only by their conversation, some cheap whiskey, an envelope of cash and about an ounce of cocaine.

High as kites, literally and figuratively, their current position is poignantly apt to their circumstances; two young gay men in small town Ireland, feeling on top of the world but with no obvious place to go.

Premiered last year in London and now making its Irish debut for One Duck, John O’Donovan’s play seems unconventional at first blush, from that garrulous title to this vertiginous setting. Yet it’s surprisingly traditional; putting two sympathetic characters into a (sort of) domestic drama, deploying a light wit, neatly combining exposition and elaboration, and building moments for revelation and breakthroughs. It’s a much cleaner and more coherent affair than a hoard of Grade-A narcotics might suggest.

Director Thomas Martin’s work for One Duck’s production is similarly sober, as though he realises, despite the fastidious realism of Georgia de Grey’s slanted set, an occasionally restless sound design, or the heavy haze of a late autumn night, that this could work as effectively on radio. It is a gentle and wistful play of things expressed and unspoken. “Things get harder to say, longer you leave it,” says Alan Mahon as the older, more reckless Mickey.

A fighter by reflex, he is currently facing charges for putting another friend into a coma (“Induced,” he says, defensively). But the man we meet, impish and affectionate, is a protector to Josh Williams’s shyer Casey, beaten by his step-father and undefended by his mother, an English boy displaced in Ennis. The quiet tragedy of O’Donovan’s play is how both have been left behind by a nation’s jagged progress. At one point Mickey even points out that they might have made an easy escape, from rooftop to rooftop, if a construction boom hadn’t been halted by the financial crash. “But that’s politics.”

So is his resentment that, in this liberated country, some people can afford to be more out than others: one gay friend, living in Dublin and recently engaged, is “makin’ a show of himself”, Mickey says bitterly. The tenderness of the play, though, is to show how invisible Mickey and Casey are, either striving in society or lurking up here, unseen and still self-conscious. At least they have been given an opportunity, from this high vantage, to see things clearly, and, in the generosity of O’Donovan’s drama, to be seen.

At one point Mickey proudly points out the local sights, playfully extending his gaze to impossible lengths, to Huddersfield, Hamburg, Kiev, Korea. “Then you’re pretty much back here.” Not everyone can escape a small place, and not everyone needs to. But in the imagination they can still go far.

If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You is playing in Project Arts Centre until February 3rd, then Glór, Ennis, February 6-7th, Mick Lally Theatre, Galway February 8-10th and The Vaults, London February 14-25th

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