Dublin Theatre Festival 2021: Conversations After Sex
Kate Stanley Brennan in Conversations After Sex. Image by Set Murray
You might be wondering is this a play about two people snoring? Sleep, apparently, being the default position for many post coitus. Conversation being optional. Particularly after a night, morning or afternoon of no strings attached, uncomplicated sex. In Mark O'Halloran's brilliant Conversations After Sex, presented by THISISPOPBABY, one woman hooks up with a number of likeminded Humpty Dumpties trying to put themselves together again. Only to discover that while hook ups might come with no strings attached, sex and its aftermath is never uncomplicated.
Following a single women and her select group of recurring lovers over the course of a year, conversations after sex lead to small increments of intimacy and healing. Conversations can be brief, unexpected, embarrassing, awkward, too much or too little, all elbows and knees, this far, too far, not far enough. O'Halloran's script using sex like alcohol, as a literary device to facilitate a road to intimacy. To allow characters say what they cannot otherwise say, letting their guard down. Talking about a lover who committed suicide. A mother dying in hospital. Unfinished business back home. Giving your girlfriend clymadhia.
Throughout, O'Halloran's searingly honest script hits home with a simple directness, saying what it needs and no more, unafraid of the silences or the spaces inhabited by the body. Which Tom Creed doesn't direct so much as beautifully conduct, establishing rhythms and timings for O'Halloran's date stamped conversations, playing with their energy with sensitive precision right till the exquisite end. Sarah Bacon's hard working costumes prove both technically efficient, catering for a record number of costume changes, and thematically important, especially when nudity can be a kind of armour. If Bacon's set suggests a tidied version of Tracy Emin's bedroom, compositionally it's a stroke of genius, the central bed the only place where intimacy might happen, the real world a space of cold distances on either side.
Foster Brooks, best known for his drunken roasts, once said he never played a man trying to be drunk, he always played a man trying to be sober. In a similar manner Kate Stanley Brennan doesn't play a woman falling apart so much as a woman trying to hold it all together, her pain leaking through in a phenomenal performance. Similarly Fionn Ó Loingsigh as her various lovers, shifting so flawlessly and convincingly you wonder if a family of quintuplets got separated at birth. Niamh McCann might not have much to do, looking like a break between acts as the married sister. But McCann only needs a moment of your time to bowl you over. Indeed, any aspiring actor, or old hand who thinks they have the stuff, should check out this outstanding production to see how it's done.
Sometimes the connection you need is sex. Sometimes it's something else. Sometimes one leads to the other. At all times Conversations After Sex is a marvellous piece of theatre, beautifully directed, with a cast to die for. Not to be missed.
Conversations After Sex by Mark O'Halloran, presented by THISISPOPBABY, runs as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2021 at Project Arts Centre until Oct 17.
Contains full nudity.