This production of Ulster American marks the triumphant return of David Ireland’s work to the Abbey Theatre, upstairs this time on the main stage. After a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Traverse theatre brings one of the brightest voices in new Irish and British theatre back to Dublin. Never one to shy away from courting controversy, Ireland once again delivers a tour-de-force of violence, vulgarity and absurdism that remains defiant under the threats of polite society. Ulster American is also, delightfully, self-aware of its controversial DNA. This is a play written for a post-Brexit apocalypse, one which plays on the confusions and contradictions of identity politics, and what happens when one’s identity is not all it seems, nor all it’s cracked up to be.
The set up for the work is almost like a bad joke; An Englishman, an American Oirish-Catholic, and an Ulster Unionist enter a room. What could possibly go wrong? Voices of power and patriarchy, women, the privileged and the denied all collide in this work. It is a powerful script, that rises above its obvious hyperbole to say something very meaningful about the state of the world we live in.
In regards its production, Ulster American (in the very capable hands of the Traverse team) largely lets the script do its thing. Visually, the stage is clean, with few distractions. The three actors; Darrell de Silva, Robert Jack and Lucianne McEvoy rise to the task of bringing to life the play’s characters, all of whom are thoroughly unlikable and hypocritical, in the best kind of way.
There are no winners in Ulster American. Everyone is terrible. Everyone is wrong. This is an excuse to enjoy that.
Review by Síofra Ní Shluaghadháin