Late at the Gate – with Emmet Kirwan: A Review

Emmet Kirwan brings us three new spoken word poems in Late at The Gate, a platform for new and developing work.


On the set of The Gate’s current production, Look Back in Anger by John Osborne, Kirwan explains to us the problematic elements of the show in its romantic portrayal of women, and sets out the context of his starting point for his poetry.

Look Back in Anger’s protagonist Jimmy Porter is a working class man, educated and dissatisfied with his life. Osborne’s play gave birth to the term “angry young men” which is gives us an insight into some of Kirwan’s work.

In his first piece, Kirwan paints striking pictures; from men in the streets advertising strippers, hinting at the grim reality of their lives, to bringing us into a fantastical and mythological world around ships on the Liffey and young men from Limerick to Vladivostok, a port city in eastern Russia.
While the imagery is powerful, Kirwan admitted himself after reading this first poem that without an introduction it would have been a confusing piece, and the audience laughed in acknowledgement of the fact that they were all unsure of what exactly the poem was about.

The second piece, by far the strongest, Mam and Dad are Worried, tells how Kirwan can be seen as controversial for speaking about politics, which can be potentially damaging to his career and being in the public eye. He eloquently shows us the experience of angry young men from working class backgrounds, constantly villainised and told they are too rough, condemned for mispronouncing words in their Dublin accents and links him being told that he is “too Tallaght”, with black people  being told they are “too black”, women being told they are “hysterical and shrill”, in this hard hitting and movinf piece that looks at the multifaceted approach to oppression.

The final piece, which Kirwan says is a retort to Look Back in Anger and its portrayal of women and the relationship between the two leads, is I Love You Woman. A more personal piece, touching and vulnerable, about the failings of men to not express their feelings as much as they should because of how they are taught to behave. A beautiful testament to his partner’s kindness and love, never crossing the line to letting us feel voyeuristic, is a strong and emotional end to the evening.

Directed by Oonagh Murphy, this runs Thurdays, Fridays and Saturdays until the 24th of March.

By Siofra Nic Liam

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