Luck Just Kissed You Hello – Lyric Theatre, Belfast

Writer: Amy Conroy
Director: Caitriona McLaughlin
Reviewer: Kevin McCluskey

Three people sit in the unforgiving overhead lights of a room in a hospital, with the blue linoleum and nearby sounds of medical apparatus creating a familiar scene of waiting. They are Sullivan (Mark Fitgerald), Gary (Will O’Connell), and Mark (Amy Conroy), lingering as Mark and Gary’s father Big Ted Donovan (never seen but casting an enormous shadow over the proceedings) dies.

Despite the initial cold austerity of Aedín Cosgrove’s set and John Crudden’s lighting, the play is not an exercise in stark realism. There is plenty of it, as the three men talk and argue and goad. But as they pick apart their conflicting memories of the emotionally and physically abusive Ted, the lights flicker and the space becomes the space of memory. Conroy’s play is a fascinating exploration of notions of masculinity and sexuality. Even the heterosexual cisgender Sullivan, a surrogate son of sorts to Ted, is used to show the cracks underneath the surface of a seemingly ‘regular’ life, experiencing an identity crisis in his role as a father to be and a husband. As a gay man, Gary’s urbane metropolitan life is mocked by the other two, and he hides behind sarcasm and cold business-speak, having researched buzzwords to use in eulogies on his journey to the hospital. Mark, a transman, is the focus of the drama. Both Gary and Sullivan repeatedly misgender him and repeatedly call him by his former name Laura, refusing to respect and recognise him.

As Mark, Conroy’s performance is electric. As a character who repeatedly says “my skin didn’t fit” when talking about being transgender, Conroy uses body language to convey this, squinting, shrugging and slouching, with occasional bravado and wit undercut by a deep insecurity. Mark says of his father: “I thought of us as the antithesis of each other and that suited me” and, in many ways, the play is about the difficulty of having to revisit a perception and a period previously closed and set in stone in memory. The same childhood scene with Ted is revisited throughout the play, in snatches of languages and brief flashes of re-enactment. This comes to a crescendo in the final moments of the play, with frenetic overlapping and repetition as all three characters present their versions and challenge each other’s accounts to reach a catharsis of sorts.

Conroy previously presented a hugely entertaining and thought-provoking look at sexuality and the nature of documentary in her play I ♥ Alice ♥ I. This work continues that but is more confrontational and daunting whereas the previous play was frequently heart-warming and in many ways universal. With Luck Just Kissed You Hello Conroy and the HotForTheatre company cement their reputations as some of the most interesting practitioners and chroniclers of experiences on the margins of gender and sexuality in Ireland.

Runs until 16 November 2016 | Image: Ros Kavanagh

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