Date/Time: 4,9 May @ 14:30(Matinees); 4-9 May @ 21:00(Evenings);
Venue: PLAYERS THEATRE @ TRINITY COLLEGE Category: Comedy Drama
Our table quiz has been cancelled due to the current COVID-19 situation.
We will keep you updated.
Please respect the government guidelines and maintain social distancing and other important measures.
Want to support IDGTF by adding to our range of prizes? We’d love to hear from you – firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Artistic Director, Brian Merriman, is bringing some Irish culture to the London stage after our successful fundraising pub quiz in November. From 14 till 18 April, people can go see three plays presented by previous editions of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival at the Cockpit Theatre in London. Get your tickets here.
Party Boy, an explosive new play based on the true story of Ireland’s first gay go-go boy, will storm onto The Cockpit stage as part of its consent and taboo series in April. Set in contemporary multicultural Ireland, we are taken on a high energy trip through Patrick’s roller coaster life as he evolves from Catholic schoolboy to ‘start my life…’ And what a life he leads: from naked photo shoots in Australia to live sex shows on the European go-go circuit, Patrick sheds all his Irish inhibitions in a no-holds-barred exposé of life through decriminalisation, marriage equality, love, drugs, violence, and exploitation. ‘Dave Flynn’s rendition of the party boy himself is, quite simply, electrifying,’ Dr Kerric Harvey review USA.
Meet the women in his life: ‘Maria Blaney brings on stage the Irish mammy we all wish we had’ (review: No More Workhorse) and a dozen characters who Patrick encounters on his life-changing journey. The 48 men in Patrick’s chaotic life are played by Colin Malone. ‘Malone is, quite literally, astonishing in his range and elasticity, moving from one persona to another with effortless ease and absolute authenticity,’ (KH, USA).
Written by the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival’s founder/Artistic Director, Brian Merriman, this ‘kaleidoscopic 75-minute epic, ‘Party Boy’ is more than just a peep show into the contemporary world of the gay male porn industry, with all of its glamour, heartache, and lethal drug scene. It’s also a whirlwind journey through some of modern Ireland’s most complicated social issues, beginning with the historically repressive influence of the Catholic Church on, well, everybody, continuing on through the heady and tumultuous years of the Celtic Tiger, and venturing into Ireland’s vaguely uncertain future as the EU re-invents itself and the island struggles with related complexities arising from immigration, patchy economic stability, rapid social change, and escalating internationalism,’ (KH, USA) .
To add some international flavour to our London showcase, the IDGTF presents Calamity Jane Sends a Message to Her Daughter by award-winning US playwright Carolyn Gage. Starring Maria Blaney as Calam a woman equal amongst men who knows much more.
Originally presented as part of a double bill with another of Brian Merriman’s shorts, The Second Miracle, The Off Switch tells the story of a young man (played by Conor Burke) born in a time where it was better to ‘switch off’ than to hope for a relationship. who considers what would LGBT rights campaigner Mark Ashton and his contemporaries make of this modern gay world they campaigned to liberate.
Party Boy and The Off Switch feature alongside eight other short plays in Brian Merriman’s 10 HISstories. Click here to buy the book!
See you in London!
We are working hard on finalising an exciting range of productions for our 2020 Festival which opens on Bank Holiday Monday May 4th & ends on Sunday May 17th with our Gala Awards Night.
Want to be part of the largest festival of LGBT-related theatre in the world?
We are currently accepting submissions for our 17th annual Festival which will run from May 4th – 17th 2020.
The deadline for submissions is December 1 2020.
See here for more details.
Obligatory Scene opens with the construction of a bedroom – that is to say the furnishing of the room, and the construction of the bed itself from frame, mattress and blankets. Two women carry in and position furniture, then laugh and kiss as they try to make the metal pieces of the bed frame fit together.
We don’t know who these women are at first. After a scene break that brings a jump forward in time, though, they soon introduce themselves as the play’s central characters: grad students Vivey and Dru, a married couple who aren’t having sex anymore.
Dru is happy with the lack of physical intimacy; Vivey is not. Both are deeply unhappy with the emotional distance that has grown between them. And so the construction of the bed gives way to a debate on the constructedness of sexuality, gender roles and to what extent it’s possible to healthily enjoy lesbian sex in a world where all sexual pleasure is conditioned by exposure to rape culture.
The hyper-intellectualism of the play’s two central characters, who approach the problem of their own sex life via an argument over Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, barely conceals a vulnerability beautifully revealed by actors Carli Rhoades and Alice Kabia. Readers of Sally Rooney will know the type: these characters are better at discourse than they are at communication, but their attempts to understand one another make them likeable despite their flaws.
The couple’s sexual problems are coloured by Dru’s history of sexual abuse, a backstory that writer Carolyn Gage and director Amelia Cain handle deftly and with respect. The writing is witty, warm and hard-hitting, but many of the strongest moments in this production are unspoken.
When Vivey and Dru are unable to explain their feelings out loud, their body language speaks loud and clear. The impact of these silent moments is a testament to the acting abilities of Rhoades and Kabia, and to Cain’s skill as a director.
It’s no accident that Obligatory Scene is presented at the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival as part of a double bill, preceded by Miss Furr and Miss Skeene – a short play based on Gertrude Stein’s word portrait of gay artists Ethel Mars and Maud Hunt Squire, adapted by Lynn C Miller. The shorter piece, as well as being fascinating in its own right, sets the scene for an intimate discussion of lesbian sexuality, contextualised and intruded on by the political discourse that has always surrounded lesbian sex.
Presented as a pair, the two plays offer a candid look at the efforts gay women have made across history to live happy lives together in a sexist world – and a powerful tribute to the courage these women have shown.
Read the full article by Cassia Gaden Gilmartin for GCN here.
John Best kicks off the night with a high camp insight into being oneself. It’s warm, funny, gentle and liberating.The smooth narrative is close to stand-up with observations to send-up, exploring experiences of the masc/fem continuum that makes or breaks dating on the gay scene.He has some great tips from his ‘little pink book’ that advise and answer through wit and wisdom. John Best is a happy boy in his skin. Gavin Roach isn’t so happy. His 40 minute tour of ‘performance’ management resonates with many and entertains all. He can’t get it up and can’t keep a guy, because this seems to be the key issue at the heart of relationships. Gavin is sweet, appealing,and defines himself by virtue of his prowess… or lack of it. He lacks confidence in bed and out of it. Gavin has charm,a big soft heart and a warm and witty story to tell. At the end of the evening you certainly get the measure of the man and what a generous measure that is!
Read the full article by AO’B on our Facebook page.
Its an emotional tale of sexual flashbacks, family fun and tragedy, a myriad of casual friendships that big cities produce, and an addiction to speed. Flanagan’s sparkling script captures the diversity of city life,gay encounters, special needs assistance, religion, and an
eccentric family life. The interpolation of television is masterful. The quirky subject changing is so cohesively delivered that it all flows seemlessly. Flanagan engages his audience from the outset with an incredible skill to weave you onto his wavelength, so you always get his point and he has many to make. Cormac evokes empathy and laughter with a twinkle of an eye. It is an intelligent, informative, humourous and sparkling story, gloriously delivered,which must stand out as one of the finest solo performances ever seen in the festival. The audience jumped to their feet the night I attended. Cancel something important to see it – you’ll be glad you did!
Read the full article by AO’B on our Facebook page.
The highly visual presentation is quite a triumph for fringe theatre as the senses are teased, lulled and shocked by light, sound and sensual dance movement. Clearly the most “alternative” of this year’s offerings, Dahl presents himself almost as a novelist and we appear to be present as his characters seek to break free from the lush constraints of the author’s prose to shake the narrative into the 21st century club scene. The physicality is sublime and beautifully portrayed. The communications contrast are an achievement that push against the limitations of fringe theatre with considerable success. There is trauma, enticement, mystery and violence. There is blending of contemporary and cultural imagery which leaves each individual audience member present in their own play. Is it real? Is it happening? Who is speaking? The setting is on the edge of the forest outside a town. The encounter is between two men but clearly we are all supposed to be on the edge. Faultless diction, exact timing, a sensual rhythmic duet of language and movement from the performers and a highly charged soundtrack and lighting mood are the key components of this visual treat. Excellent performances and a complete use of the theatrical venue leads me to believe Theatre Outre is as much an interpreter of this experience as is the playwright. They hold our hand on a journey of confusion, fear, lust, violence and courage. It has happened to us all at times and is now happening again on stage. But what exactly is it? If an lgbt festival wants to include the queer and alternative branches of the family, they will see themselves in this dark take of many styles which impresses with its artistry and masculine dance.
Read the full article by GF on our Facebook page.
Gottaluvit productions from South Africa with their well cast and directed production ensure a bountiful harvest. Set in Paris and remarkably not dealing with how these two Jewish lesbian artists survived Nazi occupation in real life, they play goes beyond the obvious and loving core relationship to deal with ageing, legacy and family. It’s a beautiful piece of theatre. Shirley Johnson (Gertrude) and Lynita Crofford (Alice) are highly skilled interpreters of these complex women. Lesbians are as a norm, erased from discourse and memory – hence Alice B Toklas being confined to the role of “companion”. But she was so much more and the similarities in her role and that of Robbie Ross in preserving Oscar Wilde’s legacy are striking. Tolkas is the reason we know Stein today. Dead is dead said Stein but here it is her beginning. There is a clear warmth and intimacy in the dignified structure of their lifelong relationship. Love wins and that’s never in question despite the disapproval of others. With an art collection to die for, a friendship with Picasso to comfort and an ambition to publish at all costs, this award winning production, sensitively directed by Christopher Weare engages from the start. It’s a warm and tender story, set in separation, that proves the enduring bond of love. The rich text beautifully conveyed by this well cast duo guaranteed a real theatrical treat. Go see it.
Read the full article by GF on our Facebook page.
I found myself at the Teachers’ Club again last night. This time to watch some theatre from the week two programme of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. For my viewing pleasure I saw ‘Monastic’ from Ireland in my old stomping ground of the basement theatre; as well as ‘Like Orpheus’ from Outré Theatre in Canada.
‘Monastic’ is a new work by playwright David Donovan and is directed by Kate Haley. It takes its inspiration from a news story a couple of years ago, when it was revealed that almost all seminarians in Maynooth College were active on Grindr, and were overwhelmingly gay and closeted. I remember being unsurprised by that revelation. About twenty years ago I was friends with a former seminarian who had shocked me to the core by telling me that he had once been in training to be a priest, and that by his estimation 90% of his class had been gay. I passed no outward judgement, but I had been confused as to why any healthy young man would want to sign up to that life. My reaction was possibly inspired by my deep-rooted atheism. I wasn’t impressed by the news story in 2016 however. It seemed so invasive, prurient and damaging to the troubled souls at the centre of the scandal. Were they suffering from Stockholm Syndrome? The homophobia, misogyny and self-hatred of the closeted church hierarchy is blatant to the world. I regarded the trainee priests at the centre of the ‘scandal’ as naïve victims who would have seen sense and left the seminary before ordination. Which had been the case for my friend and his entire class in the 1990s. They weren’t given that time thanks to the scandal.
‘Monastic’ is about three seminarians who are studying at the college. Ian and Harry (Kit Geraghty and Connor Molloy) are openly gay to each other. Both are tormented by their sexuality, but very fond of anonymous online hook-ups. Their square classmate Jack (Brian Briggs) is ignorant of the twitching bedsheets in the seminarian dormitories. The play explores the struggle of these three characters, as well as a mother (Antoinette Conroy) as she struggles to understand why her son would want to devote his life to the priesthood, The performances are all strong in this piece, capturing the confusion and isolation of these foolish, naive young men, who struggle to reconcile their faith with their sexuality. The set is very striking with a neon crucifix glowing ominously in the background; and a chequered black and while floor. This is an interesting, well directed play that was enjoyed by the entirely male audience (the ban on women priests probably the reason for this). I found the play quite challenging in places – this is related to my incomprehension why any young gay man – even a man of faith – would regard such a lonely existence as a valid career choice. Worth checking out.
Next on my agenda was ‘Like Orpheus’ also in the Teachers’ Club. This is a production from festival veteran Theatre Outré who has performed over several years at the festival – I had been deeply impressed by the production of ‘Montparnasse’ in 2017. Written by Brett Dahl; directed by Jay Whitehead, and starring Dahl and Kevin Jesuino ‘Like Orpheus’ follows the aftermath of a serious sexual assault of a young man, drugged while dancing in an underground nightclub. The assault has been witnessed by others one of whom is now haunted by recurring visions of the horror he has witnessed. He pursues the young man seeking redemption.
‘Like Orpheus’ is a mixture of dance and text that jumps around in time and place. It tells the tale from the varying perspectives of both characters – the assault and the fallout. It is a beautiful piece of theatre – dark, fluid and haunting. It’s quite experimental so I am not sure whether my interpretation of the narrative is accurate, but I guess it’s open to different interpretations. The nudity contained in the piece is unnecessary to the arc of the story, but as I believe in the credo that nudity is not wrong, it is therefore quite acceptable. ‘Like Orpheus’ is a fascinating work, and well worth seeing if you are someone who can enjoy something a bit out there (or ‘outré’).
Read the full article by midnightmurphy on Midnightmurphy here.
In the meantime, police harassment and gay cures thrive. The law is brutal, the Courts are brutal, the workplace and families follow suit. In all of this oppression we meet Bobby who works in Woolworths (Ciaran Griffiths) and Ralph (Christian Edwards) a student teacher. Kathrine Smith’s beautiful text recreates the oppression, fear, bigotry and love of a tortured minority in a changing Britain. In EM Forster fashion Smith’s story reaches across the class divide. Ben Occhipinti’s and Mark Powell’s flowing direction builds tension, releases emotion and relives the 1960s fear that the text and glorious soundtrack convey. Our well dressed actors are a duet. Their contrast and commonality shine in two powerfully restrained, excellent, moving performances. “All I See Is You” brought back memories to some and educated others that the greatest grip oppression has on you is when it convinces you to embrace it. Love struck Bobby doesn’t accept the constructed shame and reticent Ralph’s life changes forever. With an unspoken underscore of a time that destroyed many Alan Turing’s of this world, “All I See Is You” is an emotive and powerful reminder of the shoulders we all stand on today. Beautiful theatre.
Read the full article by GF on our Facebook page.
On Monday, 13 May, our Taoiseach came to see Velvet, by Tom Ratcliffe. We were honoured by his presence and support for the festival.
’16 years and then this happens. The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) books two tickets and joins us at our opening night party in Cafe Rubis. Sadly these things don’t happen in other countries, but they do in ours. He and his partner were so unassuming our foreign guests couldn’t believe it! I understand Culture Minister Josepha Madigan who launched the Festival gave him the programme. In all the negativity that populates debate – these things happen and they are important. Thank you. After 16 years of volunteering- I never thought I would introduce a show by saying “Taoiseach, Ladies and Gentlemen … it has happened and I’m proud of Ireland.’
– Brian Merriman
We have finished our first week, and what a week it’s been! Read all reviews for week one here.
Week two has started, and the first reviews are already coming in!
Read all reviews for Velvet here.
Read all reviews for All I See Is You here.
Read all reviews for Monastic / Like Orpheus here.
Read all reviews for Like Orpheus here.
Read all reviews for Gertrude Stein and a Companion here.
Read all reviews for The Little Pink Book of Masculinity / The Measure of a Man here.
Read all reviews for Bingo here.
Read all reviews for Obligatory Scene here.
Velvet is a one-man play which offers a raw and destabilising insight into the complexities of sexual harassment in the digital age of the acting industry.
Both written and performed by Tom Ratcliffe, Velvet tells the story of a young, aspiring actor struggling to orient himself around his sometimes conflicting ambition and moral compass.
Standing upright in centre stage and looking straight ahead for the majority of the production, Ratcliffe switches between a number of different characters with grace, each identifiable by the skilful ease with which he changes his expression, voice and posture.
What first begins as a tentatively humorous tale of Tom’s acting career, slowly transforms into a visceral, jarring account of coercive control. This production offers a new perspective on the LGBT+ aspect of the #MeToo movement, using an overhead screen and a robotic, disembodied voiceover to document the Grindr and WhatsApp conversations between an aspiring artist and a ‘casting director’, highlighting the dangers of online anonymity.
An ode to the velvet cover of a casting couch, Velvet shifts between and the personal and professional, the online and the offline to highlight both their differences and convergences, particularly the effects of outside-abuse on personal relationships and the link between sex and power.
Velvet testified that most drama students need a module on the industry and how it is supposed to work and how you navigate that and it’s clear our “Tom” either skipped that class or more likely was another drama graduate, deluded by the degree awarded, into thinking it equips you for the workplace. It doesn’t. Tom is a nice guy, he shows good judgement at times when not bring a bit of an airhead. Armed with a drama degree and a sense of entitlement that an older boyfriend or his Mother should provide for him long after graduation, he struggles as entitlement benefits evaporate. He comes down to reality in this well crafted piece with a bang. He is catfished online by “a casting director” who promises him stardom and in the desperation that is the system of audition and agents he has a choice to make. The abuse of power, the trading of sex for stardom is an all too familiar topic for women in the industry. Gay men were never seen as men in the arts but as boys – lesser men. “Tom” with his mixture of misplaced arrogance and vulnerability is ripe for the plucking and he is rightly plucked! Tom Ratcliffe, writer and performer has constructed a piece of thought provoking theatre that shines a floodlight on the theatrical toxin of sexual harassment and online exploitation. His engaging well timed performance style convinces, as at times we the audience want to shout stop – but Tom isn’t the kind of rookie who listens. Velvet is uncomfortable in its misuse of power and exploitation of fresh faced talent. It is theatre well done.
Read the full article by GF on our Facebook page.
Woody Schticks is a sex comedian. His high energyaction packed show packs a punch form the start. Woody has trained as a ballet dancer, is a stripper and knows how to tell a story from a yarn to a political point. This is not an inhibited show but it is packed with laughs and flexibility. His physical agility is on display from the start. His connection with the audience is intimate and reassuring. He even has some local gags! Woody brings us on a whirlwind tour of a diverse family, arts career and adventurous world tours. His colourful skimpy costumes scream 1980s cheese and he slips in and out of them with choreographic ease. A brilliant soundtrack, lots of one liners and high energy ensured his capacity audience left buzzing after their whirlwind tour of a life from camping holidays through boyhood wisdom to taking on communist repression in bizarre circumstances. He triumphs as a sex comedian and the audience including me had a great night. Cheer yourself up as Woody’s comedy certainly ‘schticks’.
Read the full article by GF on our Facebook Page.
As we see in “A Southern Fairy Tale,” Ty has been to Hell and back at least three times before he’s seventeen, and that’s without taking into account his ongoing struggle to stay in one school for more than a year at a time, his stint at a Christian gay conversion camp, and a series of increasingly nightmarish interactions with the Powers That Be in his small rural town, deep in the American South.
And all he really wants is to find his Prince Charming and live happily ever after, preferably in a castle. With children. Three. Is that really too much to ask? Apparently so, at least in Georgia.
This is a clever and well-written solo performer play, a intensely personal narrated journey about the transformative power of, as the character puts it, “faith and fairy dust.” Both components of that phrase are equally important for understanding the propulsive forces behind this intriguing piece of theatre. As the plays peels through through chapters of Autry’s young life, it’s clear that one of his most important struggles is presrving and advancing his personal relationship with God despite a religious system that insists he forfeited that simply by being who he is. “A Southern Fairy Tale” is a story about Christianity as much as it is about sexuality.
Within both narrative threads, Autry balances painfully obervant self-disclosure about his teenage years with crackling wit and just the right amount of camp. There are lines from this play that I’ll enjoy remembering for a long, long time (spoiler alert: watch for his pithy irony about the effectiveness of conversion therapy in a campground setting).
He is also a natural performer, with an exceptionally mobile face and a great command of the stage. There’s quite a voice there, too; when he wants to, Autry can roar and boom in the best Southern pulpit style. This serves him well in “Fairy Tale,” and bodes even better for his future work.
When all is said and done, this is a brave and entertaining piece of theatre, as well as a manifesto from a perspective not often found in gay theatre. And, based what we see in “A Southern Fairy Tale,” I bet that if you asked Ty Autry to I.D. the nature of the road out of Hell, he could do it in a single word, too.
And I bet that word would be “love,” which, when you think about it, isn’t really all that far a stretch from faith and fairy dust.
Read the full article by Kerric Harvey on our Facebook Page.
The Number (runs with A Southern Fairytale) Teachers Club until Saturday 11th.
It’s nine p.m. in the Teachers Club studio theatre. A man walks out onto the stage, a man in casual pants and a flannel shirt, an ordinary man, someone you’d see walking down the street or waiting for a bus or trying to puzzle out how the hell to pay for parking at Dublin Airport.
This ordinary man walks out onto the stage, and begins to talk. And something extra-ordinary happens. For the next fifteen minutes, his quiet voice draws you into the photo album of his own early life, which, in some vague but palpable way, evokes your own memories, and invokes the ghosts of who you used to be, even if they look nothing like his.
But there is still a connection, somehow, between his tale and yours, which this honest and simple bit of beautifully structured first person story-telling establishes without fanfare, and with not a wasted word. In this short but memorable bit of biographical haiku, veteran DIGTF playwright/performer Simon Murphy has crafted a poetic intertwining of Ireland’s long journey towards decriminalisation with one lonely gay boy’s journey towards the man he would eventually become. In Limerick, no less.
It only lasts a quarter of an hour, but “The Number” makes a big point — the notion that “the personal” is also inescapably political, whether we like it or not. In doing so, it offers a little gem of personal reminiscence tucked around tectonic plate shifts in the public sphere of gay politics.
Read the full article by Kerric Harvey on our Facebook Page.
The reviews for some of our shows are pouring in, and we couldn’t be happier with them!
You can read all the reviews here:
Read all reviews for Borderline A**hole here.
Read all reviews for Revolting Women – A Rebel Cabaret here.
Read all reviews for I See You, Tom Kennedy here.
Read all reviews for The Baby Monitor here.
Read all reviews for A Southern Fairytale here.
Read all reviews for The Number here.
Read all reviews for the double bill here.
Read all reviews for Party Boy here.
Read all reviews for Schlong Song here.
Patrick, a young gay Irish man, is the star of Brian Merriman’s play “Party Boy”. Presented in the small, intimate space of the Players Theatre in Trinity College, the play takes the audience on a riveting journey through Patrick’s young life: and it’s all based on a true story.
The boy meets the scary spectre of homophobia from a very young age, spending the later years of his childhood exploring his sexuality in his first same-sex encounters. But soon Patrick’s heritage as a Catholic, gay, Irish boy comes knocking, and he finds himself presenting himself as straight. Episodes of traumatic bullying experiences in a Catholic school and his constant being harassed as “queer” force him into the closet.
Through it all, and able to see through the darkest of closets, stands Patrick’s mother. A no-nonsense strong woman, always available to listen to her young son’s needs, Maria Blaney brings on stage the Irish mammy we all wish we had.
Together with Colin Malone, the two actors provide great, entertaining support to Dave Flynn, taking on many different characters created with a simple prop or costume change, providing snippets into the rolling film of young Patrick’s life.
From Ireland to Australia and then back again: the sex is getting wilder and more available, his body is getting him a long way and he is riding the wave of the good life. But behind the flash and the –very in-your-face – live sex shows, a rot is starting to spread; drugs, alcohol and medicated sex. Gay men dying off like flies. Go-go boys dancing provocatively. Young Patrick’s life gives us all, especially for those who weren’t there to see it for themselves, an insight into what it meant to be gay in the early 2000s, and how important it is to be supported by your loved ones.
Patrick is one of the few that survived or avoided abusive relationships, AIDS, drug overdoses and falling into a desensitised and medicated life because of his life-buoy, his mother.
In an Ireland where homophobia still lurks on the streets, Patrick’s proud tale of his uninhibited life between sex, drugs and relentless loves is a cautionary tale (not to be taken too seriously!) for a young audience, a trip down memory lane for middle aged ones, and a great insight into what it means to be gay, to be sharing the life of the underground gay community and to instruct us all how it is, sometimes, good to just be a party boy.
There is plenty of sex — don’t get me wrong. But Brian Merriman’s kaleidascopic 75-minute epic, “Party Boy,” is a more than just a peep show into the contemporary world of the gay male porn industry, with all of its glamour, heartache, and lethal drug scene.
It’s also a whirlwind journey through some of modern Ireland’s most complicated social issues, beginning with the historically repressive influence of the Catholic Church on, well, everybody, continuing on through the heady and tumultuous years of the Celtic Tiger, and venturing into Ireland’s vaguely uncertain future as the EU re-invents itself and the island struggles with related complexities arising from immigration, patchy economic stability, rapid social change, and escalating internationalism.
All of which sounds a whole lot more cerebral than “Party Boy” feels when you’re in the audience, completely immersed in the rapid-fire action and the glittering dialogue. Everything about this piece pulls you into it, from the first moment the young and beautiful protagonist, “Patrick,” arrives on stage as a winsome, winning pre-teen gay, to the final moments when he thrashes and flails against that most unrelenting of enemies of the club scene — the aging process. Along the way, we watch him reel from one lover to the next, from one social media “triumph” to another, and from one excruciatingly public sex act to even more graphic performances for even larger audiences. All the while convincing himself that this is what “success” looks like, feels like, in the newly liberated gay scene, despite the viciously oppressive nature of the porn industry and the spiraling mortality rates it provokes among its victims…who are also its biggest stars.
Actually, such is the artistry with which “Party Boy” is crafted that we don’t just watch Patrick as he soars towards his own destruction, so much as we actually join him on that gruesome but glossy trajectory. Every aspect of the dramatic arts is maximized to pull the viewer into Patrick’s world, as dangerously exotic as that world might be. A simple but effective set design and a soundtrack so perfect that, like a good football referee, it keeps the game going without calling overdue attention to itself, combine with creative blocking and almost acrobatic wardrobe changes that enable the two “supporting” players to portray a multitude of characters, some of which have a fleeting presence in Patrick’s life and others of whom are are the absolute bedrock without which it simply wouldn’t be possible. Casting is pitch-perfect, with a palpable rapport among the three players and deft directing encouraging award-worthy performances from each of them.
The principle bedrock presence is Patrick’s single-parent mother, played with artistry, compassion, and insight by Maria Blaney, who also “doubles” as the other female characters in the piece and, with great aplomb in one unforgettable scene, as a gay male stripper, which would surely qualify her for a “Good Sport Award” if the Festival had one. Like her two on-stage colleagues, Blaney repeatedly turns on a dime as she switches from one character and one time period to another, never missing a beat and managing to inhabit each of these various persona with equal ‘believability’ as they literally tumble down upon her.
Merriman is known for his commitment to writing parts for women that illustrate their pivotal role in Irish history and culture, even when that history and culture conspire to ‘invisiblise’ them, and “Party Boy” is no exception. But the on-stage role of “Patrick’s mother” is more than just the narrative glue that helps hold the play together in the same way that the real Patrick’s mother held his life. Blaney takes the opportunity presented by the figure of the relatively traditional Irish mother, who doesn’t understand her gay son but loves him with a desperate generosity, and runs with it. She runs far and fast, and brings the audience along with her to a new understanding of what “love” can look like.
By the time we’re halfway through the play, we’ve bought into her unconventional approach to keeping her son alive while others are falling all around him, despite what it costs her, personally, in social cachet and actual money. As “Gay Lib” caught hold and the drug use within club culture proliferated, there must have been thousands of mothers all over Ireland, faced with similar dilemmas and given no resources for dealing with them. Patrick’s mother emerges as the only real hero in this tale, with a quiet kind of valiance that achieves its goal without fanfare or joy.
Colin Malone turns in an equally stunning set of performances as an entire host of male characters populating Patrick’s life, a range of personae that includes his childhood play-mates, his lumpishly terrifying father, multiple lovers, and at least one good friend and potential life partner, whose devotion to the aging Patrick occasions the single most chilling line in the entire play. Malone is, quite literally, astonishing in his range and elasticity, moving from one persona to another with effortless ease and absolute authenticity. He is also quite a physical actor, adept at translating interior states into observable styling as well as impeccably accurate dramatic rendering, equally believable across a panapoly of ages, ethnicities, sexuality, and class. The directorial vision for this production of “Party Boy” requires huge athleticism from all of its cast members, but perhaps Malone most of all, since he must, literally, spin among stage persona as often as Blaney, but with more radical costume changes and often more theatrical phsyicality associated with them.
For instance, he plays a number of Patrick’s sex partners, some of whom are in it for the money more than for the pleasure and/or the glory of sleeping with Ireland’s most sought-after prince of gay go-go. This often requires him to take the lead in carefully choreographed sex scenes that cross classic porn rituals with kabuki-like staging, a physically taxing undertaking if ever there was one. Malone handles this, and more, with high style and convincing detail, keeping the show moving along its interstellar orbit at warp speed.
Dave Flynn’s rendition of the ‘party boy’ himself is, quite simply, electrifying. From the moment he walks onstage to the minute after the metaphoric curtain falls, he is a high-energy orb of pure visual delight. The man literally never stands still; even when he’s standing front and centre to the audience, pulling us into the next chapter of his life with another dense, rich monologue, he is bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet. “Patrick” is a man in motion just as much as his life is a hurricane of blurred faces, bad drugs, disposable friends and nameless yearning, in which only the sex itself stands out as memorable and momentarily real, until even that begins to falter.
Although, unlike his colleagues, Flynn inhabits only a single character throughout the course of the play, he still has to pivot in and out of radically different versions of that character, as Patrick grows from boy to man and then begins his odyssey deep into the dark life of commercial sex. He does this well and gracefully, never dropping a beat or missing a note as he whirls from one dizzying episode to another, always managing to bring us, the whip-lashed audience, along with him. It’s an almost impossible piece of stagecraft — and part of what makes this play a true stand-out in contemporary Irish theatre, as well as in gay drama, per se.
But Patrick’s story is not one great headlong scramble towards disaster. What really puts the stamp of ‘unforget-ability’ on Flynn’s performance is the reckless joy with which he imbues his existentially doomed lead character. Patrick certainly faces some somber moments, and some horrifying ones, too. He is not impervious to the ‘lethality’ of the world in which he lives, and wants to dominate. He has a sense of “at what price stardom?” but he is also a flighty kind of pragmatist in that he seizes the opportunities of the moment without much thought for their eventual, cumulative impact over the full course of his life. He can also be carelessly ruthless, with his own body as well as with other people’s hearts. But as Flynn plays him, Patrick is also an enormously likeable character, a boy who never really grows into a man, despite having never really been a child in the first place. There is a fierce joy in him, a reckless but compelling exuberance, which makes his descent into self-destruction all the more crushing.
In some ways, although it takes place a bit later on the gay history timeline, Patrick’s story epitomizes the intoxicating sense of freedom that flooded gay communities everywhere during the early 1980’s, before AIDS and after the first wave of (relative) social tolerance began working its way into mainstream societies. Although Patrick’s personal story is the extreme version of that phenomenon, Flynn still harvests that soaring sense of collective identity and the eruptive glee of finally having places to go where one’s sexual self need not be strangled into silence in order to preserve one’s basic social viability. There’s a lot of backstory to “Party Boy,” and more to the hedonism of club culture than immediately meets the eye. Flynn’s nimble and sympathetic performance makes no excuses for the ravages that culture could inflict, but it also illuminates the complexities of it in rich and socially crucial ways.
At the end of the day, “Party Boy” is a tour-de-force that captures life on the hard-core club circuit with almost ethnographic accuracy, right down to weaving “tricks of the trade” and specialized lingo into the fast-moving main narrative. It is also ambitious in scope, sweeping outwards from Dublin to illustrate the global network in which Ireland is only one small part. I will never walk through an international airport again without wondering who, among my fellow passengers — male and female — might leave the Arrivals Hall only to sink into the grimy glitz of the international sex trade, in which even its stars are, in the long run, the bottom rung of the porn industry’s cannabalistic food chain. Merriman and the cast and crew of “Party Boy” have succeeded in creating that unicorn of the dramatic arts…a play that entertains, engages, and educates the audience by turns and sometimes simultaneously, and that changes how those viewers will forever see the world outside of the theatre walls.
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