One of the most challenging, entertaining, ‘in your face’ pieces of theatre to hit the world stage for a very long time.
Reviewed at the Dunstan Playhouse on 14 March 2019
Presented by Traverse Theatre Company
In the programme notes playwright David Ireland states that he never expected that Ulster American would be produced by anyone, let alone anyone would come and see it! Well if that had been the case, we would have been robbed of seeing one of the most challenging, entertaining, ‘in your face’ pieces of theatre to hit the world stage for a very long time. Irish writers have always had the capability to excite and challenge our view of the world. Oscar Wilde, JM Synge, Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel, George Bernard Shaw, Sean O’Casey the list goes on and now we add to that the pen of David Ireland.
This play sings, it gallops along at a pace that threatens to throw you off the bus if you don’t keep up. It throws in your face challenges that make you laugh and wince at the same time. It is a metaphor for the times we live in and, as Ireland states in the programme “sometimes it feels like the whole world is becoming like Northern Ireland in the 80’s and 90’s”. Fast, furious, uncommonly honest, it revels in the fact you will not be able to stop yourself laughing at every awful revelation that the superbly rendered characters throw at us. I heard gasps of horror, a few audible “Oh No’s” and more than one person that I could see in the audience had to attempt to curtail laughing at the inappropriate utterances of these three characters in full flight to save themselves from the consequences of the words that were forced out of their mouths by the situations they found themselves in. Issues of identity, gender bias, sexual power and politics are used like weapons by these characters to wound, deflate and overpower each other with catastrophic results. I found myself with my head in my hands, my chin on the floor and my heart in my mouth as, just when you thought it had gone too far, it trumped itself. (Pardon the pun)!
Gareth Nicholls, the director, states in the programme the belief that theatre is a communal experience, something I ardently believe in. To do that, the rapport you build with your actors has a direct influence on how the work is received by the audience. Darrel D’Silva as Jay Conway, Robert Jack as Leigh Carver and Lucianne McEvoy as Ruth Davenport connected, manipulated, cajoled and outraged their audience into a state of sharing their journey with three outstanding performances. My intuition says Nicholls’ had a very strong hand in building that trust. I thoroughly enjoyed being put into a place, with my fellow audience members, that gave me the permission to laugh outrageously at things I should have shouted out loud at in protest.
Quality theatre is always a great experience, and the buzz of expectation that filled the theatre before the curtain went up was justified in the standing ovation this talented group of individuals received from a very amused, challenged and very entertained audience.
I await with bated breath the next treasure to fall from the pen of Mr Ireland and somebody invite the Traverse Theatre to bring us another gem to Adelaide soon. Don’t miss this if you can buy a ticket, I don’t think there will be many left.
Recommended for ages 16+.
Contains sexual assault themes.
Reviewed by Adrian Barnes
Venue: Adelaide Festival Centre – Dunstan Playhouse
Season: Wed 13 March – Sunday 17th March (times vary check website for times and bookings)
Duration: 1 hr 25 min, no interval. Latecomers not admitted.
Tickets: $79, Friends $67, Conc $64, U30 $40 Transaction fees apply.