A gay man’s coming of age in 1970s Austria, new writing from two Irish women, and a dysfunctional family reunion, there’s lots to chew on in today’s International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival reviews
The Naked Soldier ****
Adapted from the novel by Der Nackte Soldat by Bellman O, this one-man show from Germany follows the journey of Alwin in 1960’s and 70’s Austria, as he discovers his sexuality and is compelled to live a double life, compartmentalising his carnal experiences well away from his daily ones.
A solo show either stands or falls on the quality of the performance, and in the Outhouse’s small theatre there is absolutely no space to hide. Fortunately in Nils Wilkinson’s (main picture) beautifully modulated performance, The Naked Soldier is in safe hands. He manages to convey the conflict and detachment within Alwin brilliantly, in a portrayal that is all the more powerful for its understated grace.
Credit must also go to director Miguel Granja for a finely nuanced production. This sad, sombre piece really is a thing of chilling beauty.
The Naked Soldier continues at the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival until May 6 at the Outhouse. Performances at 7.30pm with a matinee 4pm on Saturday, book tickets here
Both Sides Now/Wasting Paper ***
In this is a double bill of new Irish writing by Nicole O’Connor and Leah Moore, the spotlight is put on growing up as a gay or bisexual woman in contemporary Ireland.
In Both Sides Now, the songs of Joni Mitchell are used to put a shape on the challenges of being bisexual, a very unexplored theme, even within gay writing. Though the plot is minimal, Nicole O’Connor is a performer of great charm, even though sometimes lines were lost because it was hard to hear her (and the Pearse centre is not large). It felt like a work-in-progress more than a finished piece, but hats off to the festival for giving young women writers a platform.
Wasting Paper contains a very fine performance from Leah Moore and a funny, energetic text with some great lines, as this young poet bares her soul to us. This short piece flew by, and could definitely be expanded into a full-length play. Kate is a character I want to see more of. A very promising debut.
Both Sides Now/Wasting Paper continues at the Pearse Centre until the May 6 at 7.30pm, with a matinee at 4pm on Saturday. Book tickets here
An Unexpected Party ***
Dysfunctional families often make great subjects for drama, and the meeting up of the twin-sister and ex-partner of the recently deceased Niall provides the fulcrum for this new play by Irish writer Simon Murphy.
There are touches of Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party in the resulting conflict, and Murphy, who also stars in the play as Declan, can write some very funny lines.
Though the performances are a bit uneven, there is a standout turn from Lesley-Anne Reilly as Karen, featuring immaculate comic timing. Reilly plays a great drunk.
Sometimes the tone of the piece is a bit jarring, but this is always a challenge for comedy about serious issues. Murphy is obviously a writer of some potential, and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.
An Unexpected Party continues at the Teachers’ Club, 36 Parnell Square until May 6th at 9pm with a matinee on Saturday 6th at 4pm. Book tickets here.
Fronting/The Tearing Up of Fergal and Tim *****
This very fine double bill serves up an appetiser featuring a gay couple’s attempt to have a civilised break-up, and for the main course there’s a new play from Scotland about living with HIV.
The Tearing Up of Fergal and Tim shows the powerful potential of the short play, something which we see too little of, but which has become something of a specialty for Blue Heart Theatre. In this finely written piece by Sean Denyer, we understand exactly why Fergal and Tim have fallen apart, but crucially, why they got together in the first place. It captures, with great insight and humour, the huge and sometimes overwhelming lurches in emotions and inadvertent comedy involved in a break-up. The build up to Tim’s eventual destruction of Fergal’s favourite book of poetry is brilliantly paced by the two actors, Mike Kunze and Brian Higgins, (a former winner of the Best Actor prize at this festival), who both give wonderfully nuanced performances. Sometimes and it’s definitely true in this case, less can be more.
In Scottish playwright Darren Hardie’s Fronting, we follow David, who at 21 has contracted HIV from a former boyfriend and is attempting to come to terms with what this means for him. The text skilfully weaves in issues relating to the contemporary management and prevention of HIV with a human story that is deeply affecting and utterly believable. The performances by the young cast are uniformly good, and have a great natural quality to them. Hardie is a young writer to watch, and this is a company I hope returns to the festival in the years to come. HIV-related plays were all over the festival a few years ago and then seemed to disappear as treatment got better. But of course, HIV had never gone away, and this beautiful piece does a brave job in reminding us of that fact.
Fronting/The Tearing Up of Fergal and Tim continues at The Pearse Centre until May 6 at 9pm with a matinee on Saturday at 2.30pm. Book tickets here.
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