Boyfriends – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Reviewer: Emma Devlin

Writer: Ultan Pringle

Director: Joy Nesbitt

Arriving just in time for the peak event of Dublin Pride, Ultan Pringle’s Boyfriends graces The Cube with a contemporary love(ish) story, replete with music, madness, and mess. Pringle is the writer in residence of An Grianán, where the production will travel to after its run in the Project Arts Centre, and Boyfriends is the latest in a series of successful creative endeavours from the collective LemonSoap Productions, of which Pringle comprises one quarter. If you caught Piglet in the New Theatre last year you might be very tempted to see what wonders are next from LemonSoap and Pringle, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Choy-Ping Ní Chléirigh-Ng’s set is a work of art for the audience to gaze upon while waiting for the show to start. An upright bed puts the floor of the bedroom on the backdrop of the stage, surrounded by the detritus of day-to-day life, and leaves the actors free to roam the living room of a flat on Camden Street for the majority of the play. There are plenty of other interesting tricks and delights in this production; the opening burst of confetti, the white bedspread serving as the projector screen, the robotic asthmatic pug that ambles around the place – there is so much going on over the course of the 95 minutes that it might almost verge on overwhelming if it weren’t so fascinating to behold. The sound and lighting design, from HK Ní Shioradáin and Owen Clarke respectively, adds further flourish to the production. The music is a key component that is used to perfection here, and the transitions and use of volume, as well as the pre-recorded voices of other characters, and the excellent lighting choices, all serve to create several different times and places without the actors ever needing to leave the stage. It would be a travesty not to shout out Toni Bailey here, who once again kills the costume design, particularly with the gorgeous period pieces that grace the stage for one brief scene.

Pringle is joined by Emmanuel Okoye as they play out a four month ‘situationship’ that may be familiar to many young people on the Dublin dating scene. Together they tease out several themes in their witty and biting back and forths; bereavement, mental health, substance abuse, body image, acceptance. Though this may seem like a lot to tackle in one play, it throws up a mirror to the fact that for many people in Ireland in their late 20s and early 30s several of these and other things lurk somewhere beneath the surface, bobbing up to disrupt the flow and cause chaos in their wake. The pair bounce off each other with a natural ease, falling into jokes or onto the couch, and hurting each other endlessly in the way that all new lovers do when they maybe aren’t ready to be lovers at all. It is both familiar and painful to witness.

Considering that it is not only written by Pringle but also performed by him it is hard not to speculate about which weirdly wonderful anecdotes and quirks are autobiographical, if any of them are. Worth mentioning too is the fantastic directing of Joy Nesbitt, who likely played a strong role in keeping actor and writer distinct and in making Boyfriends the very powerful performance that it is. Not to be missed.

Runs until 6th July 2024.

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What is love? Baby don’t hurt me.

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The Reviews Hub - Ireland

The Ireland team is currently under the editorship of Laura Marriott. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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