ComedyDramaLondonReview

Yes So I Said Yes – Finborough Theatre, London

Reviewer: Stephen Bates

Writer: David Ireland

Director: Max Elton

Judged from his most recent works, perhaps the one word that can best describe the style of Belfast-born playwright, David Ireland, is “confrontational”. In both Cyprus Avenue, which enjoyed two successful runs at London’s Royal Court Theatre, and Ulster American, a big hit at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, characters challenge each other and audiences ferociously and follow through with shocking acts of violence. If the title of this, his latest play which is here receiving its premiere on this side of the Irish Sea, suggests a milder approach, it is misleading. There is no mellowing of tone and, in fact, the writer could be said to have progressed from risking offending many to being near certain of offending all.

Ireland’s writing bears an acute awareness of the divisions, both political and social, on the island of his birth. He writes from the perspective of belonging to a province that seeks an identity and a relevance in the modern world, perpetually viewing itself as either British or Irish or neither or both. Now (the play is set in 2011), following on from the peace process, even traditional sectarian killing is out of fashion. The writer’s themes are as before, but he now presents them in the form of an absurdist satire that is even starker in a horror tale about mental torment, rape, bestiality and Eamonn Holmes.

The central figure, Alan “Snuffy” Black, a Protestant Unionist, is played with a doleful look of bewilderment by Daragh O’Malley; he is diagnosed by his jocular doctor (Kevin Trainor) as suffering from depression after he complains that the barking dog owned by his neighbour, McCorrick (Owen O’Neill) is preventing him from sleeping every night. The dog (symbolic of irrational prejudices?) may or may not exist. Snuffy gets help from an unconventional therapist (Laura Dos Santos) who orders an outrageous remedy for his ills.

Director Max Elton’s production has pace and anger, magnifying the play’s darkest humour. The right note is hit with the arrival of two Unionist paramilitaries, a hilarious double act comprising the relentlessly aggressive Craig (Kevin Murphy) and his over-eager sidekick, Carson (Declan Rodgers). Sadly, their appearance is too brief and, without them, Elton struggles to keep the excesses of Ireland’s black comic writing in check.

in the course of the production’s 80-minutes (straight through) running time, jokes work sporadically, but they tend to be dragged out for too long and, while all the ingredients for a successful black comedy are here, they feel wrongly balanced. Resulting from this, the play eventually strays so far beyond the boundaries of good taste that it ends up being neither funny nor meaningful.

Runs until 18 December 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Say no

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