Writers: Jeda de Brí &Finbarr Doyle
Director: Jeda de Brí
Reviewer: Liam Harrison
The wedding is a week away and a couple of twenty-somethings are hungover on a Sunday in Jeda de Brí and Finbarr Doyle’s Tryst. Video games, hair of the dog and wedding decor seem to be the plan for the day until maid of honour Rachel (Clodagh Mooney Duggan) throws everything into discord, with news of an unexpected pregnancy. Her announcement raises questions of consent and complicity for the three characters, after a picture emerges of a drunken night of experimenting before finally tying the knot. Familiar tactics of distancing and dissociation come out, complete with that overused excuse – “People do stupid things when they’re drunk.”
The stage is a cream carpeted square closely framed by the audience on three sides. The space initially feels like a snug living room, a cushy premarital nest, but as the action darkens it morphs into a claustrophobic cage, a melting pot of prejudice, privilege and vitriol. The hungover state of the couple Matt (Finbarr Doyle) and Steph (Katie McCann) emphasises this entrapped feeling. Their initial groggy fears of having to do wedding stuff and get dressed are displaced by their more pronounced fear of disruption to their middle-class, nuclear family ideals. A reactionary, primal response takes place as Rachel’s vulnerability is dismissed over and over, as she pleads for some compassion: “I came to you for help and you gave me money.”
The cast perform magnificently under glaring lights and in a close and carefully examined space. The dialogue is sharp and rapid, the words emotively delivered, while drunken memories are conveniently remembered and misremembered. Matt takes on a particularly male role in the crisis of being both active and passive as a means to consistently exonerate himself. When his actions are questioned he has the cold economic facts of putting up money for an abortion, but when his logic is challenged he switches to the passive, ‘he did his part’ and the rest is not really to do with him. The manipulative side of this behaviour is craftily teased out in Doyle’s performance, playing the perfect foil to McCann’s more acerbic attacks.
The tragic elements of the play are piled up high, as it explores absent parents, unemployment, abortion rights in Ireland, and alcoholism. There is even the ugly spectre of domestic abuse, as Matt snarls in a heated moment “I’m not going to hit you.” But the play has both the temperament and the scope to avoid drifting into soap-opera histrionics.
The play delves into the hungover world of uncertainty for many twenty-somethings, railing against while secretly coveting the conservative institutions of marriages, jobs and financial security. Duggan’s portrayal of Rachel as an outsider to the comforts of employment and family is beautifully rendered as an aching pathos of insecurity. Underneath all the fighting and accusations, ruined lives and friendships, is the burning desire not to be alone.
Runs until 24 September as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe | Image: Christopher Lindhorst