We Don’t Know What’s Buried Here – The best theatre shows this week

Stacey Gregg’s award-winning play about a teenager’s fraught search for identity and Grace Dyas’s new play about digging for truth in the shadow of a Magdalene Laundry

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Scorch

Project Arts Centre, Dublin. Previews Feb 13-14 €14 Opens Feb 15-Mar 3 7.45pm €18/€16 projectartscentre.ie

First performed in 2016 to great acclaim, Stacey Gregg’s award-winning monologue piece Scorch returns to Dublin, staged by Prime Cut Productions. Inspired by the unusual details of a real court case, it follows the story of Kes, played by Amy McAllister, a gender-curious teen who identifies implicitly as a boy. At home, Kes can easily assert freedom from rigid brackets of gender, watching sci-fi movies “through the dude’s point of view” and seizing an alternative identity allowed by the anonymity of internet avatars. “She thinks I’m a guy,” Kes says of an online acquaintance that begins to turn amorous. “And I don’t correct her.” The consequences in the real world for a gender-fluid individual who comes up against much more inflexible systems of identity and accountability are both thorny and tragic, but Gregg’s play is equally engaged with the gendering and sexualisation of culture and its repressive consequences. Or, as the inveterate gamer Kes might put it, who gets to be Player One?

We Don’t Know What’s Buried Here

Civic Theatre, Tallaght Feb 15-17; Axis, Ballymun Feb 20; Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray Feb 22 8pm €12/€10 theatreclub.ie

When Dublin City Council decided to sell the site of the former Gloucester Street Laundry, the last Magdalene Laundry in Public ownership, to a Japanese hotel group, one councillor’s objection sounded chillingly resonant in the grim light of the Tuam babies case. “We don’t know what’s buried here,” he said. These words have given THEATREclub’s latest work its title, and inspired a play by Grace Dyas which imagines two survivors of the laundry, Tina and Bernadette, digging a hole in the shadow of the building. Played by Dyas and Doireann Coady, the women are searching for the remains of their missing children, but also for other elusive answers in a society that is long on suffering and very short on trust. There are further resonances with more contemporary abuses of power, and particularly Dyas’s efforts to expose them, but the question of the play, directed by Barry John O’Connor, is whether we can deal with what is unearthed, or if we prefer to leave things buried.

Late at the Gate

Gate Theatre, Dublin. Feb 23-24, Mar 2, 3, 9, 10, 15, 16, 24 10.30pm €10 gatetheatre.ie

If you have misgivings about the worth and relevance of John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger, a game-changing work for British theatre in 1958 but closer to a foghorn of unchecked misogyny and adolescent self-pity today, you are not alone. The surprising thing, though, is how the Gate’s new production shares and expresses such concerns, employing distancing devices and suggesting strategies of resistance to the screed of a male malcontent, lionised by his author. Now, comes a further way to answer back, in the first in a series of Gate Studio commissions asking actor, playwright and spoken-word artist Emmet Kirwan for a response. In Dublin Oldschool, a lyrical play soon to appear as a film, Kirwan brought his wit and compassion to understanding young men in pressured circumstances. Soon after, Heartbreak, a short spoken-word piece that moved swiftly into a stirring short film, turned those abilities to the private suffering of women. As the Gate looks back at a troubling past, Kirwan’s work has all the necessary anger, and much more deserving targets.

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