[THEATRE ~ ADELAIDE PREMIERE ~ SCO]
Adelaide Festival Centre, Dunstan Playhouse, Thu 14 Mar.
There are smoking guns galore, personal and political violence, duelling prima donnas and as each of the players insists on protecting their own truth, things get deeper, darker and more serious. But the more serious it gets, the funnier this play gets about it! In particular the two feminist misogynist males in the play do more back-flips than a Chinese acrobat – continually revising their accounts in vain attempts to preserve their future. The intricate strands of politics in Ireland are drawn out, only to become live wires snaking across the stage.
If you are easily offended by strong language – expect to be challenged. And it isn’t just the language, the behaviour is often appalling, whether outright offensive or in terms of trying to find a middle path when there is nothing but the extremes possible. The writing is tight, punchy, and will have you wincing and laughing out loud in equal amounts, often at adjacent phrases of the dialogue. But the dialogue is also enhanced by the strategic use of the pause, drawing us into the inner thoughts of the character with posture, body language and facial expression.
Set in the lounge room of a unit or flat in which we are first introduced to the actor and the director, waiting for the writer to make an appearance. And already lines are being crossed in what is acceptable – the writer wishing to push all of our buttons and prejudices, posing questions that you’ve no doubt never considered to ask! Then the director arrives, late, flustered and somewhat upset, having been in a car accident with her mother, from which her mother has gone to hospital. Initial indications are that everybody has the greatest respect for everybody else – but that doesn’t quite turn out to be the case. At least not when the others ideas conflict with their own sense of self. There’s history, the Irish Catholic/Protestant divide, the British/Irish divide, the division between male and female, between successful and not quite there yet – and that’s just in this room.
At the point at which everybody’s reputation is threatened, the (American supposedly Irish Catholic descended) actor demanding the (Ulster British) playwright rewrite in such a way that he feels comfortable playing the part – once he realises the history and the intent of the play, the playwright demanding he make good on the contract and the Director saying and doing anything to try to make the play actually happen with the personnel involved making it a success…then things go even more badly wrong.
It’s a riot, it’s confronting, it goes places that you didn’t want to go and then takes you even further. It takes your uncomfortable cringing and turns it into laughter and at the end it gets a standing ovation – that is good theatre! Ulster American comes directly from the Edinburgh Fringe as new work and is heading to the West End and Broadway; I’m so glad it came here to Adelaide first!
Ulster American continues at Adelaide Festival Centre, Dunstan Playhouse, at various times, until Sun 17 Mar.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.