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  • Chris ORourke

Late at the Gate: Emmet Kirwin

Emmet Kirwin. Photo uncredited


Over Protective Parents

On Friday, March 9th, the inaugural “Late at the Gate” was finally launched a week later than planned due to the snow. An opportunity for new artists to present new works, or works in development, on the stage of The Gate, "Late at the Gate" kicked off with Emmet Kirwan’s response to John Osborne’s Look Back In Anger, currently running at The Gate Theatre. If “Late at the Gate” looks curious on paper, it’s because it is. Going on at 10:30 at night directly after the show, and running for half an hour, it’s asking a lot of anyone who wasn’t already there to come along especially for the event. Yet when it comes to Emmet Kirwan’s powerhouse performance, subtly yet superbly directed by Oonagh Murphy, it’s a journey well made.

Presenting his response to John Osborne’s Look Back In Anger and the notion of the angry young man, a winning, and charming, Emmet Kirwan presented three poems delivered in his epic, hip-hop, performance poetry style, beginning with the least satisfying of the three. One whose epic cultural attentions, ranging from Limerick to Vladivostok, Agamemnon to banshees, felt immersed in the very pretensions Kirwan claims to resist. Not that a working class lad from Tallaght can’t quote the Greeks, but this poem just didn’t deliver consistently or effectively. In contrast, the powerful and passionate "Mam and Dad Are Worried" proved to be a soul-searing, hairs rising on the back of your neck, absolutely exhilarating experience. War cry, rallying cry, a cry of rage and pain and defiance, this was Kirwin at his anarchic, poetic, and provocative best. Declaring the angry young man, and woman, to be fully alive and kicking, Kirwan urges them to a new fight. Not at each other, not wild and flailing, but focused, together, attacking the ignorance from both high and low places that oppresses them.

Ending with the romantic, in the best and worst sense of the word, "I Love You Woman," Kirwin's retort, or rebuke, to Osborne’s Jimmy Porter presents a raw, emotional vulnerability to offset Porters rage, one that proves to be extremely powerful. And delightfully, and dangerously, sappy. Its declaration that ‘you are perfect’ risks re-presenting woman as the idealised mother and savior, placed on a pedestal of perfection, always a precarious and unreal place to be. If it covers much the same ground as John Lennon’s Woman, one suspects Kirwin would approve of the comparison.

“Late at the Gate” might only last for half an hour, but Kirwin’s performance makes it well worth your while. So don’t dare miss it. It’s likely to be one of the best half hours you’ll experience for some time to come.

“Late at the Gate” with Emmet Kirwin, runs on various weekend dates until March 24th

For further information, visit The Gate Theatre.

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