What Doesn’t Kill You is heartwarming but Quilt is disjointed

Stage review: Two plays at the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival

QUILT

Teachers Club, Dublin
★★☆☆☆

The first night of the second week of the 19th International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival takes the form of an evening of story telling at the Teachers Club on Parnell Square. First up is Quilt written and directed by festival founder and artistic director Brian Merriman.

Four actors, (Lia Monahan, Stephen Gorman, Ciara Andrea Murphy and Karl Keogh) mount the stage from the front row with gusto to "tell the true stories of the heroes who lived, loved, lost, fought and survived" during the Aids pandemic. The problem is that to tell a good story, you need good storytellers. Unfortunately, this is where the play falls down.

Quilt is a patchwork which is disjointed because it tries to cover too much, too quickly and with too little engagement from three of the four actors with the subject matter. Lia Monahan’s performance, however, is superb. The play really begins with her first monologue, about twenty minutes into the 70-minute piece. Her second monologue, telling the story of a mother who learns of her son’s death in 1980s New York “of Aids” will challenge the hardest of souls not to shed a tear.

Much is lost by the throwaway delivery of the three other actors in what should have been a poignant reminder of the stigma still associated with HIV/Aids.

Nightly until May 14th, with a Saturday matinee at 4pm

WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU

★★★★★

If Quilt is a story that will leave you cold, What Doesn't Kill You will warm the cockles of your heart. Written by and starring James Hindman, the play follows a gay man's awakening after a near-death experience. Billed as a comedy, this one-man extravaganza is much more than that, presenting a very human experience of the fear of death sprinkled with hilarious gay humour.

The audience are invited to use their imaginations and participate in the story. What unfolds over 60 minutes is a masterful use of lighting and pin-point accurate mobile phone technology which together create a space for the imagination to run riot. We really do visit the various locations, from hospital room to gym to bus ride in the Czech Republic. This is storytelling and stagecraft at its best and most contemporary.

Hindman’s writing and SuzAnne Barabas’s direction bring the audience on an emotional rollercoaster, “a heart attack, an obsession with Cher and a trip to a concentration camp”. Not to be missed.

Until May 14th, with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm

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