UNGUARDED – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Reviewer: Emma Devlin

Writer: Anthony Kinahan

Director: Anna Simpson

With Unguarded Anthony Kinahan explores a very relevant and sensitive topic that has an important place in the national discussion – the lack of regulation regarding surrogacy in Ireland. This 75-minute multi-role one-man show has a short run at the Project Arts before beginning its national tour, so there are plenty of opportunities to catch it around the country.

Perhaps due to this tour and its multiple venues the set is virtually non-existent. Kinahan takes to a stage furnished with one simple chair, but the full back wall projector in the Cube has been made use of to set different scenes through simple imagery. In the opening scene it’s a collage of posters from musicals, presumably Tadgh’s bedroom wall, but later it depicts the steady Irish rain on a car window, or the soft lights on a Christmas tree, or the hazy lines of a deep dream.

Tadgh is the first character that Kinahan plays – a young teenager obsessed with musicals and preparing to audition for the first time for his school’s rendition of Oliver. In the next scene the audience is introduced to his father Stephen, a recently widowed man struggling to balance his grief with his demanding work and the responsibility of caring for his son alone. Though Kinahan does play multiple other characters throughout the play, these are the primary pair, and use of pre-recorded dialogue is also interspersed for phone calls, answering machine messages, and for memories of conversations with Conor – Stephen’s deceased husband and Tadgh’s other father. Music also has a large presence in the piece, from Tadgh’s frequent musical outbursts to Stephen’s dream state dancing to the Goo Goo Dolls’ Iris highlighting a moment of deep grief, music is a near constant.

If this sounds somewhat complex for a one-man show, it both is and isn’t. There is a lot going on in this play to get to grips with; there are so many characters and voices and different settings but only Kinahan and the chair physically on the stage. However, Kinahan uses the full range of his acting ability to separate these characters and to embody these spaces, and there is certainly clear distinction as a result. The story is what is most important in this piece; the close examination of loss and grief and love within a family unit, alongside the added stress of a lack of legal rights because surrogacy in Ireland is not regulated, allows the audience to understand how tortuous and absurd it would be to remove Tadgh from Stephen’s care – regardless of what the law may say. It is without question a story that needs to be told, though perhaps it would benefit from being told in a simpler way.

Runs Until 27th January 2024.

The Review's Hub Score

A worthy story

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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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