How to Keep an Alien – Project Arts Centre – Tiger Dublin Fringe Review


How to Keep an Alien runs at the Tiger Dublin Fringe until Saturday 13th of September – Review by Frances Winston

If the title of this leads you to expect a sci-fi epic you will be sorely disappointed as although ET gets a mention there is actually no extra terrestrial life in this show. If, however, you want a wry look at the complications of trying to obtain a visa for a foreign partner deemed an illegal alien by the government then you have come to the right place. Written by and starring Sonya Kelly, it takes the audience on a journey through her relationship with her Australian girlfriend Kate. The pair met while working on a play in an Irish castle but just as they gathered momentum, Kate’s visa expired and what followed was months and months of bureaucracy, paperwork, frustrations, Skyping and relationship realisations as they attempt to compile all the information needed to apply for a De Facto visa for Kate. As they try to prove that they are indeed a real couple to the government they are forced to overcome obstacles that would strain even the strongest of relationships and their story really is a testament to the lengths people will go to for love.

Kelly presents the story passionately and manages to find humour in even the most traumatic moments of the process. With help from her stage manager Justin Murphy, she recalls each and every moment from the first time their eyes meet to periods of separation, meeting the relations and the complexities of dealing with immigration officials. Underscoring the tale is the story of Kate’s great grandmother who emigrated to Australia after being evicted from her home in Ireland providing yet another link between Kate and the Emerald Isle. The staging is simple – predominately a lot of shelving and lamps – and every inch of it is used to great effect. Popular music is dotted throughout and stage manager Justin performs a truly special rendition of Bright Eyes in the middle of the show. Kelly’s vibrancy and energy never waiver and her honesty as she explains the ins and out of her relationship is refreshing. Her script is snappy and engaging and multimedia is used sparingly but effectively to enhance the story.

You really feel like you are being given a glimpse of a very private world throughout and the intimacy of The Cube only adds to this. On the night I attended there was a well deserved and genuine standing ovation and the audience was completely engaged and in stitches laughing throughout the show. Kelly is an excellent storyteller and you leave feeling uplifted and with your faith in love restored. At many times throughout the show she talks about making a gesture of permanence to Kate and this is probably the grandest gesture of permanence she could have given her. Truly affecting, warm and witty this is one of the best new works I have seen in a long time.

The Cube @ Project Arts Centre, 39 East Essex Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

4-13 September at 8.30pm. Tickets: €15/13

How to Keep an Alien runs at the Tiger Dublin Fringe until Saturday 13th of September.

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