Once Before I Go – Gate Theatre – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review
Once Before I Go by Phillip McMahon
Date – 1-23 Oct, 7.30pm, 02, 09, 16, 23 Oct, 2.30pm
Duration – 2 hrs., with interval
Daithí (Sean Campion) has an unexpected visitor. Lynn (Aisling O’Sullivan) turned up at his door with a bottle of wine in her hand. After the initial shock of seeing her, Daithí offers her something to drink and the two start an awkward conversation. They haven’t seen each other in many years despite living only a few miles apart in London. Lynn tells him about her children and Daithí tells her about his plan to return home to Ireland. They were good friends but seeing each other brings back painful memories of a man they both loved in different ways. Bernard was Lynn’s brother and Daithí’s partner. He was a colourful character, larger than life and his death changed both of them. The play shows us these characters in the present day but also in the mid-80s, where we get to meet Bernard and see the events that lead to his death.
This is a new play written by Phillip McMahon, who is the co-director of THISISPOPBABY. He is also the writer of several plays including the much loved Alice in Funderland and Come on Home. This play deals with the AIDS crisis in Ireland during the 80s and it allows the audience to see first-hand how it affected the lives of the gay community who lived through it. Older gay people have seen some dramatic changes during their lifetime. It may seem bizarre for younger audience members to realise that homosexuality was only decriminalised in Ireland in 1993. The fight for equality is also central to the story.
The Gate Theatre has removed the seating from the front section of the theatre and replaced it with cabaret-style seating. This alteration along with the pumping disco soundtrack made the atmosphere in the theatre quite euphoric before the production even started. For many people, this was their first return to the theatre in over a year and it was an enjoyable way to be welcomed back!
The production has an impressive sense of style, helped by Francis O’Connor’s set, with ten-foot-tall illuminated numbers making sure there was no doubt when the events were taking place! There was also a dance piece to introduce the production and a number of other musical happenings during the evening.
The play shows the same characters at two points in their lives, in modern times and during the mid 80s and early 90s. The scenes involving the younger characters are the more successful of the two. Despite the quality of the actors, the older characters have less to work with as the major events in their lives have already occurred. Also, the flamboyant character of Bernard, played by Matthew Malone, adds colour and humour to the scenes where he is involved. It is always challenging to write about AIDS as it is difficult to show an audience the steady decline of a young man. McMahon deals with this well and leaves the audience on a high with a glamorous final scene.
Directed by Selina Cartmell
Set Design: Francis O’Connor
Costume Design: Katie Davenport
Lighting Design: Sinéad McKenna
Composer & Sound Design: Alma Kelliher
Movement: Liz Roche
Associate Director: Darren Sinnott
Cast (in order of appearance):
Lynn: Aisling O’Sullivan
Jase: Sam Crerar
Daithí: Sean Campion
Young Lynn: Martha Breen
Young Daithí: Desmond Eastwood
Bernard: Matthew Malone
Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review
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