BWW Review: OUR ISLAND - Meeting the Parents of Post-Referendum Ireland

BWW Review: OUR ISLAND - Meeting the Parents of Post-Referendum Ireland

Meeting the parents can be hell. Though in Barry McStay's nail-bitingly good play for MIRARI productions, things have a habit of getting considerably worse. This drama about a young gay Irish man in London stressed over introducing his boyfriend to his Irish folks asks timely questions in the wake of the Marriage Equality Referendum. However, politics aren't the extent of its reach.

From the gentle wooing by a stranger on a park bench (the charming Rob Malone), this unfolds to become something quite epic. Philip Stewart's scrolling piano sends us forward four years when the two lovers are living together, their apartment being clinically rearranged by Jack (a deft Peter Corboy) ahead of his family's visit for Christmas.

Other guests include Charlie (the ridiculously well-witted Siobhán Cullen), Jack's mate and onetime girlfriend. If this former flame won't complicate matters, reminding his parents of the daughter-in-law they never had, her apish boyfriend will. Actor Jamie O'Neill brutally brings polite pleasantries to a halt in his delivery of tactless remarks: "You got the vote. Who cares anymore?".

"Things don't change overnight" Jack calmly replies. Though his own hang-ups about coming out gay in Ireland are to manifest with the arrival of his father (a soft spoken Martin Maguire) and mother (made funnily wary by Bairbre Ní Chaoimh).

Director Maisie Lee brings out the comedy but her sensitivity towards McStay's well-drawn characters is to realise the balance struck. As Corboy fierily demonstrates his protagonist's feeling of rejection, Maguire and Ní Chaoimh are so well nuanced to convey a parent's getting of grips of their son's homosexuality while surviving a bigger fallout in their family. A sweet realisation comes in knowing their son better than he thinks.

McStay spells out that acceptance takes time, often longer than wished. It's generous of him to dash that reality in a heartfelt coda, taking his lovers to a place where boundaries are dissolved. Against the azure backcloth of Rebekka Duffy's sand-coloured set, it might just be paradise.

Our Island runs at Project Arts Centre Cube as part of Tiger Dublin Fringe until 13 Sept. For more information and tickets, see the Fringe website. Photo: Futoshi Sakauchi.

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