Sunday 18 March 2018

It's hell, being gay on a cold slate roof

If We Could Get Some More Cocaine I Could Show You I Love You, Project, Dublin, and touring

Alan Mahon and Josh Williams in 'If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You I Love You' at the Project
Alan Mahon and Josh Williams in 'If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You I Love You' at the Project

Emer O'Kelly wonders if being gay and living in Ennis is really the worst fate in life.

It is just about as pretentious a title as could be imagined for a play, yet John O'Donovan's If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You is certainly not pretentious. Unfortunately, it's a lot of other bad things, as well as a few good ones.

It's hugely over-written and badly in need of a brutal script editor. It's far too complicated for its own good, with the two characters' back stories dominating the text rather than concentrating on current and future action. And as yet another traumatic experience/interlude is dragged into the dialogue between young twenty-something Mikey and his new love object 18-year-old Casey, you end up restless rather than sympathetic.

Set on Hallowe'en night in contemporary Ennis, Co Clare, the play identifies the town as the depths of hell for gays.

Until recently, Mikey was the only gay in town ready to acknowledge his sexual identity, resulting in lifelong rage against society as all the other gays left town to find freedom.

He's now a violent minor criminal, beating people up for any and no reason, and depending on his single, hardworking mother to bail him out (literally, in most cases). Currently, he's on remand (again) and not sure how it will go.

Casey, on the other hand, is a fairly gentle soul. He's new to Ireland, his Irish mother having left her violent (black) husband in the UK and come back to Ireland with another violent lover, Bobby, who beats up on her son, deals cocaine, and is determined to keep her estranged from her own mother in England.

Bobby is also involved in a feud with the people next door, whose son he enticed into drug dealing. Being black and gay is all too much for Casey, so he pretends to be straight, and is now trapped by the girl he's been seeing, who plans to pin her pregnancy on him. If he denies it, she'll have him stigmatised as gay - and he can't bear that. So, both young men are in hell, aka Ennis. They've decided to improve their situation by breaking into Casey's house while his mother and Bobby are at the pub. But the gardai have them trapped on the roof, and the only way of escape is across the roof and garden of the malignant neighbours.

And there it's all played out for the star-crossed lovers, with a hip flask and Bobby's stash of coke. And maybe it's my age, but it was the invisible mammies I ended up feeling sorry for. Possibly, of course, it was also because O'Donovan provides his two protagonists with a lorryload of pity for themselves. Life can be tough for gays, even now, and not just in small towns - but surely it's not the worst fate in the world?

Alan Mahon (Mikey) and Josh Williams (Casey) both work hard in their roles - a bit too hard actually, although that may be the fault of Thomas Martin's relentlessly forthright direction.

Derek Anderson lights Georgia De Grey's adequate rooftop set.

It's a One Duck production at Project Arts Centre in Dublin and will travel to Glor Theatre in Ennis, the Mick Lally Theatre in Galway, and the VAULT Festival in London.

Sunday Independent

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