You’ve just got to love the GAA. It’s mad. It’s tribal. It’s powerful. There’s simply nothing can compare to match day. Just ask Vickey Curtis and Áine O’Hara. They’ll tell you often enough. Telling it well, or convincingly, proves an entirely different story. In "GAA Maad,” the second in the DUETS artist initiative by Fishamble:The New Play Company, Irish Theatre Institute and Dublin Fringe Festival, a Dublin and Mayo supporter talk all things GAA, gay, and gunning for the glory. If there was a divide between the arty types and the GAA before, there's little here to mend it in this decidedly weak production.
Looking like two researchers dressed for an All Ireland Final, trapped in the archives of the GAA, Dub supporter Curtis, and Mayo mad O’Hara, set about delivering what’s essentially a dressed up powerpoint presentation, replete with projections. Wisely, Curtis frequently calls for bullet points as O’Hara reads from yet another file. Thankfully O’Hara complies. One file, on fibromyalgia, highlights the pain, potential issues, and personal costs that go with performing "GAA Maad." And while sympathies and admiration are justifiably due, the end product is not so well deserving.
Gender balance might be little in evidence in DUETS, hosting two, all female productions, but sure weren’t women only allowed play Gaelic since 1974. Still, gender balance is gender balance, and Curtis and O’Hara have a lot to say on the subject of women being allowed shape the policies and practices of the GAA at local and board level. Indeed, they’ve a lot to say on a lot of things. For despite their abounding love for the GAA, there’s a lot they’re not happy with as gay women who’ve suffered abuse. Not necessarily at the hands of the GAA. But the GAA’s participation in Pride this year sees "GAA Maad" interrogating the Garda’s right to march in it, and Corporate sponsorship. Mainstream acceptance and moves towards broader inclusiveness, or identity theft and appropriation? It’s clear what side "GAA Maad" comes down on.
For the uninitiated, much of what’s talked about around the cheap tinsel, archive boxes, and county flags is somewhat informative, with the legend of the Mayo curse being a particular delight. As is a succinct history of hurling and Gaelic football. But the shapeless, formless, stumbling along, carried by the charm and charisma of its two endearing, odd couple performers doesn't deliver enough. Some spoken word segments, a Pride flag, and a touch of audience interaction, promise more in imparting Curtis and O’Hara's genuine love of the GAA. But once again the ball flies high, then goes wide of the post.
Showing heart and humour at times, "GAA Maad" has its moments. But its documentary style ramblings feel like a missed opportunity. Those interested in GAA, its history and its issues, might well find something here to resonate with. Not as much as there should have been, but something.
"GAA Maad" by Vickey Curtis and Áine O’Hara, part of the DUETS artist initiative by Fishamble:The New Play Company, Irish Theatre Institute and Dublin Fringe Festival, runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2019 at Bewleys Café Theatre until Sept 21.
For more information, Dublin Fringe Festival 2019 or Bewley’s Café Theatre.