A Fine Bromance
The war may be over when it comes to Irish marriage equality, but not all the battles have been won in John O Donovan’s award winning debut, “If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You.” For though Irish law has changed, changing hearts and minds is not always so easy. Especially in certain corners of rural Ireland. And especially if you’re young, black, poor, and a non-national. Exploring themes of sexuality and difference, abuse and poverty, outsiders and identity, to name but a few, “If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You” dares to hope as it opens up a sharply observant, multi-layered conversation. One with a deeply engaging love story, and two deeply endearing characters, whose fascinating tale ultimately plays second fiddle to “If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You's” vitally important themes. Themes that see it often sacrificing the visceral for the verbal, yet still delivering some fine, heartfelt moments, in what is a thoughtful and thought provoking production.
Not that you’d gather all this from the outset. Indeed, O’Donovan’s clever and engaging opening seems to offer a lighthearted tale of two troubled and troublesome tearaways, Mikey and Casey, up to a bit of devilment on Halloween night in smalltown Ennis. Bent on a bit of roguish revelry, with just a dash of burglary and a smattering of cocaine, their plan to rob Casey’s house backfires badly. Stranded on its slanting rooftop, clutching the chimney, trying to hide from the Garda below and some unneighbourly neighbours next door, it looks unlikely they’ll ever get to the party Mikey desperately wants to bring Casey to. Trapped, with nowhere to go, the boys can only go backwards into their endless backstories, enlightening and illuminating themselves, and each other, as the night passes slowly. Mikey, an irrepressible, irresistible rogue, just ask him, he’ll tell you, still gets into fights every day to affirm his sexuality. He may not always win, but he’ll always fight. The younger Casey, originally from Croydon, finds his skin and nationality are already problems enough. He’s barely up to passing off their relationship as a bromance, let alone a romance, and would rather stay on their rooftop island than face the party Mikey wants to take him to. For Casey is in a Catch 22 scenario. Openly embracing his sexuality might put him, and others, in danger. Not embracing it might have equally dire consequences. As the night wears on, will the young lovers find the courage to run, or to stay? And will they finally get to say the words they really need to say?
In O’Donovan’s solidly structured script, conversations turn to meaningful discussions with deftness and ease as Mikey and Casey’s secrets, stories, and sexuality are revealed, and their love presented as the most ordinary thing in the world. Throughout, O’Donovan’s script is at its most powerful when exploring the ordinary and immediate. Yet immediacy often gives way to discussions of its weightier ideas, serving to interrupt long flowing backstories used to illustrate its thoughtful themes. As a result, if the opening had you falling in love with it, the ensuing thought filled conversations, coupled with its pressure cooker scenario being diffused about the half way mark, risk easing the tension to such a degree that you might just fall out of love with it. Similarly its use of language. In a post Dublin Oldschool, Howie The Rookie context, “If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You’s” working class colloquialisms don't always compel, feeling weak in quite a few places.
Two strong performances by Alan Mahon as the loveable rogue Mikey, and Josh Williams as the deeply conflicted Casey, are utterly engaging throughout, even if the chemistry between the two doesn’t always spark. Designer Georgia de Grey does an outstanding job with a simply stunning and deeply evocative set, ably supported by sound designer and composer Jon McLeod, and lighting designer Derek Anderson. Director, Thomas Martin, keeps things moving nicely, though the excess of important themes drags the pace a little in places, and diffuses the impact of the ending somewhat.
“If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You” isn’t quite the romance it might have been, it’s certainly something of a fine bromance. One that challenges any ill judged complacency that the lived gay experience is now free from prejudice and bigotry. If it totters at times, O’Donovan’s script negotiates the uneasy balance between story, character, description, and lengthy discourse on its varied themes incredibly well for the most part. True, it often slips and slides, and topples close the edge under the weight of its obvious issues, but it never quite falls over to become a messy pile on the pavement. A little over thought and over talked in places, its two deeply engaging characters deliver some deeply moving moments, in a tale of the moment that's also an utterly beguiling love story.
“If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You” by John O’Donovan, presented by One Duck and Project Arts Centre, runs at Project Arts Centre until February 3rd.
For more information, visit Project Arts Centre