Marcus Youssef and James Long are a couple of late thirties, early forties Canadian guys who are good friends in real life yet friends who also play out an intensely competitive relationship where everything is ranked in terms of wining or losing. They tailor some of their material for local audiences; for example, they split down the middle on the Senate Referendum, discuss the merits of Temple Bar as a tourist entity and reference Stoneybatter as an up and coming area. Mexican women? Winners. So as pub-type lads banter, this was working. There’s even a bit of on-stage table tennis to show who has the upper hand. Yes…a lot of us (both men and women) do have friendships like this. We may not wish to acknowledge it, but we do.
But then it moves up a gear. The political became personal as the two discuss whether the ‘Occupy Movement’ is a winner or a loser. The family circumstances of the protagonists are brought into focus as the tension and stakes rise; James and Marcus come from different class back-grounds and this becomes a topic for discussion as family and privilege are adjudged in terms of winning or losing. Things get personal as they seek to gain advantages. In a somewhat alarming scene (as it contrasts sharply with the verbal proficiency demonstrated by both actors/characters) they wrestle – male competition taken to ridiculous extremes. Youssef and Long debate each other’s politics; bile and envy replace trust and respect in their friendship. When Marcus accuses James of being a bad father, you know the criticism can’t get any lower. It is war by other means.
The audience reaction was positive; one of the few downsides not being the work but the venue (the uncomfortable lack of air con in the Project ‘Cube’ space, a definite loser). But for intelligent debate, conversation and an exposition on friendship, competition and capitalism, this was a winner.
Winners and Losers finished on Saturday (28-09-13) at the Project Arts Centre.