Review: YES SO I SAID YES, Finborough Theatre

David Ireland takes us into the mind of a madman

By: Nov. 26, 2021
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Review: YES SO I SAID YES, Finborough Theatre

Review: YES SO I SAID YES, Finborough Theatre I don't hold with trigger warnings (although, to be fair, they might well be a useful way of getting kids interested in Shakespeare) but, when it comes to David Ireland, they're probably justified. Yes So I Said Yes was written a little before his tour de force, Cyprus Avenue, and you can see a lot of that masterpiece in this smaller work. This play is just as... I'll say "full-on", so consider yourself warned.

Alan "Snuffy" Black is an loyalist ex-paramilitary (insofar as anyone can be ex from a job like that) and he's being kept awake by his neighbour's dog. As he tells his doctor of his insomnia and incipient depression, his grip on reality starts to slip and he slides into a dystopia of PTSD, sexual repression and sheer loneliness, all played out against his overarching anxiety that the Peace Process is slowly, surely, inexorably denying his place in his homeland. We're sent tumbling with him in this funny, frightening, fucked-up (literally) world.

Daragh O'Malley gives us a wholly credible Snuffy, a man for whom we bear sympathy and disgust, not just minute by minute, but second by second. He did monstrous things, does monstrous things and yet, and yet, and yet, he's no monster. Creating this multiple identity is part of David Ireland's genius - I'm not sure anyone does it better.

The five other members of the ensemble cast have enormous fun with the parade of grotesques conjured by Snuffy's addled psyche. Kevin Trainor is particularly impressive as a camp, distracted doctor and also as a dog on whom indescribable indignities are visited. But there's magnificent work too from Owen O'Neill, Laura Dos Santos, Kevin Murphy and Declan Rogers too. all of whom manage to be terrifying and hilarious at the same time. This production is its London debut and surely exactly the kind of show that brought so much praise to this tiny theatre over the years.

I'll reiterate again that the jokes are not for the fainthearted, but the violence of deed and language is not put to work purely in the service of laughs. There's a deep-seated paranoia underpinning everything here - Ireland grew up in working class East Belfast and, while the hallucinations we see are those of a madman, the anxieties that drive them are not. One does not need to know every word of "The Sash" to have some sympathy with the lot of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland.

And Ireland saw all this five years before Brexit.

Yes So I Said Yes is at the Finborough Theatre until 18 December

Photo Tristram Kenton


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