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Both Sides Now / Wasting Paper & The Tearing Up of Fergal and Tim / Fronting – Reviews

Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival – Reviews by Bridget Deevy

Both Sides Now / Wasting Paper – Pearse Centre – Until May 6th

The Tearing Up of Fergal and Tim / Fronting – 1 May – 6 May – The Pearse Centre

Both Sides Now – Written by Nicole O’Connor Directed by James M. O’Connor

These four short plays made up two double headers, which played at the Pearse Centre last week, as part of the Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival.  Varying in length from fifteen to forty five minutes, all four plays dealt with issues around love and loss: being dumped by a first love; finding love in an unlikely situation; breaking up with kindness; and overcoming a betrayal to trust again.  These are well worn narratives in the hetro-normative theatre world, but in the context of LGBTQ experience, they are given a new fresh perspective.

Nicole O’Connor’s Both Sides Now uses the music of Joni Mitchell and a flipchart to tell the story of Lydia, a teen who has come out as bisexual and her first love.  The writing has a fresh, witty touch and the use of the flipchart with its scrapbook quality of homemade collages and lists, (5 reasons why I may be a lesbian (I would Winona Ride-her) VS 5 reasons why I may be straight), is a great central device for building the story around and the play works best when using this to full effect.  Less successful was the conceit that the character was having an onstage breakdown, forcing her to abandon the ‘real’ play, as this was at times confusing, especially when the narrative took a dark turn, which felt abrupt.  Joni Mitchell’s music was performed beautifully in meditative interludes and nicely bookended the play.

Squad Theatre Company’s Wasting Paper made up the second half of this double bill.  Again we meet a young woman, Casey, as she negotiates her first love.  Written and performed in rhyme, this play has a cheeky, playful tone, which is reinforced by the central performance.  Casey is an eighteen year old schoolgirl who has ‘gone viral’ over the summer, thanks to her rhyming skills, culminating with her performing at events and festivals around Ireland.  In September, she returns to school with newfound confidence, to face the dreaded Leaving Cert.  Instead of focusing on her studies however, she develops a crush on her new English teacher.  Dealing with some potentially controversial topics, the play ultimately side steps the key issue in favour of tying the story up in a neat bow.  While the play may have benefitted from some stronger direction, there is no doubt that the central performance was engaging and funny, with glimpses of star potential on show.

The Tearing Up of Fergal and Tim / Fronting – 1 May – 6 May – The Pearse Centre

Sean Denyer’s two-hander The Tearing Up of Fergal and Tim, is a snapshot in the life of a relationship.  Played in real time, these fifteen minutes chart a couple’s efforts to remain friends while breaking up.  Using the familiar trope of the dividing of possessions (books of poetry), this couple inevitably fall prey to resentments and recriminations.  Given the brevity of the play, Denyer manages to give us two fully realized characters in Fergal and Tim, with all of their antagonism and vulnerability.  The struggle to remain kind when it is easier to strike out is an interesting impulse to examine in a short play and it is handled nicely here.

The second play of this double bill is Darren Hardie’s Fronting.  The only non Irish company in this particular run of shows, this ensemble hail from Scotland, where the play is also set.   The story centres on David, a young man with HIV, who is embarking on finding love again after a disastrous end to his previous relationship.  The play unfolds over one night, where David tells a near stranger the about the moments that have lead him to this point. We see flashbacks to these moments, with David remaining the fulcrum of the scene and the other actors swapping in and out to create the flashback.  Unfortunately, the limitations of the Pearse Centre playing area appeared to hamper the storytelling, making the blocking of the scenes tricky at times.  That said, there were solid performances all around from this company, painting the picture of a man coming to terms with a betrayal that in the end has wounded him more than the diagnosis that he is living with.

Too often in theatre, gay storylines have been sensationalist or gay characters have been used as plot devices or tragic figures.  It feels right, to see now the LGBTQ theatre community telling the everyday stories of domestic passions and quiet heartbreak.  These four short plays tell stories such as these.

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