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DUBLIN THEATRE FESTIVAL: Alien Documentary – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Creator: Una McKevitt

Reviewer: Clara Mallon

The question of whether or not we are alone in the universe is one of life’s largest and most profound mysteries. It is a question that has vexed mankind for centuries.

So when Una McKevitt’s Alien Documentary was programmed as part of this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival, there is an expectation that perhaps one of life’s oldest and unsolved mysteries may be brought to light.

Aedín Cosgrove’s set is surprisingly bare within the intimate setting of the Project Art Centres’ Cube theatre. As the three performers (PJ Gallagher, James Scales and Barry McKiernan) enter, it is clear that they are playing the unconventional role of stage constructors. In slacks and builder-like attire they begin to assemble the stage set, immediately placing characters on the fringes; outside ideas of a centre yet still connected to it.

The characters’ initial dialogue is very much so that of casual “lads banter”, lending the piece a realistic feel in its portrayal of Irish masculinity. The naturalistic flow of conversation allows for lulls as the three protagonists weave in and out of numerous topics. From Google maps, fishing, and tanning to Gardaí, alcoholism and gambling there is a documentary-like realism attached to characters interactions.

Molly O’Mahony plays the role of zany artist who will perform on the stage the men construct. O’Mahony enters and exits throughout the performance, interrupting their narrative flow with an air of superficiality that contrasts starkly with the sincerity of her male counterparts.

As the piece progresses the conversations start to take a dark turn. Delving into personal experiences of child sexual abuse and domestic violence, the graphic and harrowing exchanges feel at odds with the main banter-like flow of the piece. As a result these intimate moments emerge as somewhat unlikely exchanges of honesty between acquaintances. By the play’s close there is a fundamental disjunction between playful conversational dialogue and characters intimate personal revelations.

Alien Documentary is stylistically metatheatrical. Yet at times McKevitt’s depiction of Irish masculinity feels exceptionally real. Surprisingly Alien Documentary barely touches upon conventional ideas of extra-terrestrial life. The “Alien” of this documentary ultimately emerges as McKevitt’s representation of honest disclosure among Irish masculinity, a sad truth which is thought-provoking in its portrayal.

Runs until 15 October as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival | Image: contributed

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