Hyper – Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin

Reviewer: Ciarán Leinster

Writer & Director: Ois O’Donoghure

This reviewer was unsure what to expect from Hyper, but if anything was wary – did 60 minutes of something that seemed likely to live up to its name seem ideal for the first truly autumnal Monday evening of the year? Turns out he needn’t have bothered – this was a poised, engaging rumination on identity, and the disjuncture that occurs when what we feel inside is distinct from how we fear people see us. The title, by the way, comes from “hyperpop” – a musical genre, helpfully explained in the programme for those of who required it, that is “trans dominated”, and noted for its “vocal modulation”.

Conall (Christopher O’Shaughnessy) and Saoirse (Fiona Larmon) are setting up for a gig in a gay bar, which the straight Conall loves playing in, but not so much Saoirse. While he can revel in his comfort in this space, Saoirse, who is trans, needs a place like this, where she can hope to feel safe. While she looks comfortable performing, according to Conall, Saoirse is trapped in a labyrinth of self-doubt, never sure who the audience are seeing.

This is shattered by a transphobic interaction in the bathroom, at which point writer-director Ois O’Donoghue, perched above the stage and draped in cords and wires, is called upon to change roles. She is asked to play Saoirse, but has a better idea, and the audience are instructed to read the transphobic lines in unison. It’s a neat trick, and not gimmicky – it confronts the audience with the experience of being both victim and victimiser.

Understandably, as a preview, there were some minor teething issues, such as the difficulty of hearing some lines through a voice modulator, but this is likely deliberate. The piece veers between the interaction between the pair, O’Donoghue’s interjections, and musical numbers to which O’Shaughnessy and Larmon dance. Despite this, it never feels ragged, and is pulled together well when O’Donoghue comes onto stage, taking the role of Saoirse– when asked how she thought the audience reacted, she says, “I didn’t really care about them”. This explicit, straightforward centring of trans subjectivity, in an exciting and raw work, is a welcome addition to this year’s Fringe Festival.

Runs until 23rd September 2023.

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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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