Love in the Wild
Hope And A Second Chance
There’s a good chance you’ve already met Ger Duffy. Good chance too you tried to avoid having to talk to him. For Ger looks, sounds, and dresses like one of those. The ones that shoot up in a telephone box, get strung out on the Boardwalk, or hassle you for change for a hostel for the night. Not someone you’d want to spend any time with. Except playwright, Lisa Walsh, thinks it’s high time you did. You see Ger isn’t a junkie, he’s in recovery. Nor is he homeless, he has a loving family. He’s also an amazing swimmer, a lover of David Attenborough programmes, a massive Bob Marley fan, and seems to possess a magic Leap card that never needs topping up. And he’s also about to discover that second chances can come in the most unexpected ways. A slice from the life of a recovering addict, “Love in the Wild” showcases an exceptional one-man performance, in a brave production unafraid to take risks.
In “Love in the Wild” if everybody deserves a second chance, most of Dublin didn’t get the memo. Not when it comes to Ger Duffy. Not the people at the local swimming pool, the passengers on the bus, the porter in the Gresham, nor the blind date from the Internet. Ger might be trying to put his addiction behind him, functioning well on his methadone and looking to get his life back, but the rest of the world isn’t particularly interested. Yet an unexpected love interest introduces a purpose into Ger’s life, along with an endless amount of bus journeys, kicking things up a notch. But how do you end the story? Do you honour the truth of the characters or settle for a neat, dramatic resolution? Walsh bravely opts for the truth.
If “Love in the Wild,” doesn’t take us on a journey so much as an encounter, this proves to be its saving grace. For what little journey it does take, even if true to life, is dramatically unsatisfying, stopping rather than ending and leaving much unresolved. Walsh’s astute observations of the banal, everyday elements that comprise Ger’s day-to-day existence might prove fascinating for a time, but they risk stalling everything before it really gets going. An initial set up, built around a trip to a swimming pool and a computer, introduces Ger, but doesn’t really go anywhere relevant, even if a translation of terms used on dating sites proves to be hilarious. Indeed, Ger risks coming across like a man recently awoken from a time capsule he fell asleep in sometime during the 1980’s. Even when things do get started it can still feel like the engine's turning but we’re really just going nowhere slow. Yet if it overplays its hand in this respect, and could benefit from some tightening up all round, in another respect Walsh’s approach is exactly as it needs to be.
Something director Peter Sheridan is acutely aware of. It might prove challenging keeping everything moving at a slow, sluggish pace, immersed in banal details and tales of predatory sharks, spiders, and family loving Emperor penguins, but this is the pace, and way, which Ger engages with the world. A move doubly brave, because it is this very sluggishness that many often recoil from. But Sheridan understands an audience, and, along with Anto Seery, sets about seducing them into Ger’s irresistible web, courtesy of a deeply engaging performance. Ger might initially seem simplistic, but Seery reveals a world of hidden depths and meanings. Built on a rich, physically articulate vocabulary of gestures, tones, and perfectly paced movements, Seery is simply superb, ensuring the loveable Ger is deeply resonant and hugely affecting.
In striving for simplicity and directness, Walsh’s script is constructed from some very basic building blocks. Yet there are rich veins of interrogation running deep. Alongside a detailed depiction of an addict in recovery, Sheridan, Seery, and Walsh beautifully articulate a rich, if subtle, commentary on Dublin. Contrasting a city, and a people, who have traded Chester slices and a day at the baths for an endless line of homeless people queuing for medical assistance, “Love in the Wild” begs the question; is Dublin a place we can all still call home, or just another space where the homeless and the desperate gather?
Reminiscent at times of Adam and Paul, “Love in the Wild” understands hope is a fragile thing, especially for addicts in recovery. Those, like Walsh, who work with high-risk people, will tell you that while the work can be richly rewarding, it can also break your heart. For there are no guarantees. In honouring this, Walsh has made a brave choice by leaving the ending open ended. The lack of resolution might be dramatically less satisfying, and the heavy droning suggest impending doom rather than hope, but in the midst of it all stands a man in swimming togs ready to face the world. Or will he? Ger might only offer a fragile hope for recovery, and for Dublin, but embers have been known to ignite into flames. Touching, thoughtful, with a terrific performance from Seery, “Love in the Wild” offers a heartfelt hymn to hope and humanity.
“Love in the Wild” by Lisa Walsh, directed by Peter Sheridan, runs at The Axis Ballymun until March 9th before going on tour.