Ulster American – REVIEW

Ulster American – REVIEW
Image: ULSTER AMERICAN at Ensemble Theatre. Image: hero

Girls, gals, ladies and soi-disant feminist men! You just have to see this witty, biting satire at the Ensemble.

The three characters are an American actor with a huge ego, a Leftie British director who wants to use the upcoming production to secure the top job at the National Theatre, and a feisty right-wing writer from Northern Ireland who, despite her Irish accent, insists she is British.

They meet at the director’s residence on the eve of the rehearsals of the play called Shrapnel that Ruth Davenport (Harriet Gordon-Anderson) has written about “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland.

Ruth has secured Oscar-winning star Jay Conway (Jeremy Waters) to play the lead, and well-known Leigh Carver (Brian Meegan) as director.

Brian Meegan and Jeremy Waters in ULSTER AMERICAN. Credit; Prudence Upton

Prior to Ruth’s arrival, Jay raises the question: “Who would you rape if you had to, if you had a gun pointed at your head?” He chooses Princess Di because he believes she could use the experience in her charity work. Leigh immediately protests Jay’s sexism, but after a long and pregnant silence, he selects Margaret Thatcher as his putative rape victim – because he wants to “punish” her.

After Ruth turns up and the niceties are dispensed with, the three discover fault-lines in their relationships and in their perceptions of the play. Jay, a Catholic, is shocked to discover that Ruth is a Protestant and that her play condemns Catholic violence during “The Troubles”. 

Leigh is shocked to find that Ruth supported Maggie Thatcher’s policies inter alia, and Ruth is shocked to face an onslaught of “mansplaining,” whereby her playscript is being eviscerated and altered beyond recognition by her colleagues. 

Harriet Gordon-Anderson in ULSTER AMERICAN. Credit: Prudence Upton

With Leigh’s approval, Jay even suggests Irish dancing and wearing an eye-patch for the play.

The tension builds until it finally explodes in a violent and bloody climax. 

I was left wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes, but the lady next to me had to turn her eyes away.

Don’t turn away from this black comedy. Go see it for yourselves and enjoy Ireland’s perceptive understanding of feminism and his witty portrayal of the men who falsely claim to support the cause.

It’s a terrific cast, who work well together as an ensemble, and director Shane Anthony does a fantastic job of realising Ireland’s characters and moving them around the small Ensemble stage.

Until June 8

Ensemble Theatre, 78 McDougall St, Kirribilli


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