Tuesday 26 September 2017

Review: Gender identity a key theme in story of torment

Luck Just Kissed You Hello, Project Arts Centre

'Amy Conroy's most compelling new play is not about the dying, it is about the living – about finding a way to live, about discovering who you really are'
'Amy Conroy's most compelling new play is not about the dying, it is about the living – about finding a way to live, about discovering who you really are'

Sophie Gorman

Big Ted Donovan is on his deathbed, a respirator keeping his heart beating. If he has much of a heart, that is. From the stories of those gathered at the hospital bed, it seems unlikely to be a big one.

This occasion does provide a final chance for resolution, for possible reconciliation. However, Amy Conroy's most compelling new play is not about the dying, it is about the living - about finding a way to live, about discovering who you really are.

Conroy plays Ted's son Mark, although Ted would know him as Laura, as he is transitioning from female to male because he has always known "my skin didn't fit". Mark has flown from England and is joined at the bedside by his gay twin brother Gary (Will O'Connell) and their best friend Sullivan (Mark Fitzgerald). Although Sullivan is not Ted's actual son, his relationship was much closer, Ted could accept him.

Loving

They all agree that they won't miss him, that Ted was never loving. Even Sullivan, who tries to defend him, to challenge their memories as being selective, admits this. And, in this dramatically heightened setting, they keep returning to one moment from childhood, a pivotal moment, a brutal moment.

It is viewed from different perspectives, initially depicted as a halcyon memory but gradually the protective layers are stripped back to reveal one person's harrowing truth.

Directed with great pace by Caitriona McLaughlin, there are moments of real humour, but everything is rooted in such pain from a life of denial. Father and son relations is certainly a theme and so is gender identity, but this is really about facing up to who we are.

Under three wide, harsh strip lights, the set has the coldness of an interrogation room. And in some ways this is an interrogation, Mark is putting himself in the spotlight and eventually only truth can emerge. For although this is a three-hander, it is very much one person's story and struggle.

This is the outing of internal torment and it is delivered in a mesmerising performance by Amy Conroy that seems ripped from her own innards.

Irish Independent

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