One (The Number) is set in Limerick in the 1990s and the other in rural Georgia two decades later. Similar issues, different journeys and better outcomes. Simon Murphy has a nice, evocative text about an emerging young gay student in Limerick in 1992/3. His shy deliberate performance relays in a gentle measured way the traumas of coming out in an alien culture. It is slowly delivered with much sincerity. It reminds one of the gentle souls caught up in a hostile Irish society that allowed no reference points and recalls how many struggled without ever dialing “the number” bravely supplied by the few out volunteers at that time. Roll energetically into the 21st century, and we meet the charming nerd that is Alex (Ty Autry). He is engaging, intelligent, aware and a Christian – a Southern version. US Christianity is almost as new as broadband! So many versions are plied, modified and enforced in the name of a universal God with very few discernible attributes. It’s an industry. The professed certainty is that his followers know exactly God’s intentions at all times! To present that “Christian” message in a county whose experience of such grotesque manifestations by a belief system which has damaged so many, is brave, new and important. The energetic and empathetic delivery helps to persuade at times but will it convince? Throw in conversion therapy, deluded characters, and a wholly dysfunctional family and you discover a range of chapters rarely seen in Fairytales. Alex goes through a lot, to introduce a character at the end as his best friend now, either to ensure the piece resolves is a truly Christian thing. Anyone who does to a child what that person did is no one’s best friend. Perhaps they have learned but “forgive and remember”. Ty Autry is packing them in with a capacity audience that wants to hear his journey. It is a finely executed, engaging performance that might well resonate in an Irish setting, long jaundiced by the hypocrisy of those who speak in God’s name. It’s a good double bill. It’s worth reflecting on both works later – have times changed that much? Does every fairytale guarantee a happy ever after? One thing has without a doubt- you can’t keep a bright kid down!
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