‘Yes’ and ‘Must be nice’

Back at the Pearse Centre tonight for another stint as usher; raffle ticket salesperson extraordinaire; show introducer and general meeter and greeter.

I have seen twelve shows over the past eleven days, and while I’ve had varying opinions about them, in general I am impressed by this festival. It’s clearly an enormous labour of love for everyone involved in it.  While my motives have been feral – to gorge on theatre while wearing my volunteer lanyard, I hope I’ve helped out a bit. If nothing else I can now ask ‘Would you like to support this noble festival, by buying raffle tickets?’ without blushing with embarrassment at asking people for money.

Tonight was another double bill.

First up was ‘Yes’ by the Home You Go group – and it was another marriage referendum play. Last year’s vote has clearly been a massive influence on the theme of this year’s festival – with two plays being specifically about the topic – but also as a background theme in other shows.

This is obvious really (or a ‘no-brainer’ as the hip cats of today might say) considering that the vote last year was the most momentous event in Irish gay life since decriminalisation in 1993. Probably more so, in the sense that in 1993 being out and proud was a more political and dangerous act – where being run out of your family, job and country was a distinct outcome of such foolhardiness. So those involved in that campaign were much fewer.

I was living in France at that time. I was 18, and I remember reading about it in a two day old copy of the Irish Times – bang up to date for those pre-internet times. I remember feeling a relief at the news, along with a certainty that it would have zero impact on me, as I was going to my grave with my dirty, shameful secret.

What a difference a couple of years make.

Decriminalisation appeared less momentous than it actually was, due to the almost complete invisibility of gay people at the time.

Last year’s referendum seemed bigger (although in the grand scheme of things it probably wasn’t) as it involved so many more people of all ages and walks of life. It seemed to mobilise the community in a way I had never witnessed.

For those people involved in the campaign it seemed to become an all consuming obsession, and almost life and death struggle. Again I was abroad – this time in Amsterdam, but I followed the whole shebang from the web- and hauled myself back to Ireland two days before the vote – where I even managed to squeeze in a street canvass and a spot of doorbell ringing the day before the vote.

‘Yes’ is  different from ‘The Ref’ – the other referendum play – the latter is a musical comedy. ‘Yes’ is more a typical dramatic play – with a good sense of the absurd remaining.

I loved it – it captured that sense of hope and dread that preceded the vote – the boundless possibility of a new Ireland; along with the realisation that if the vote was no, then Ireland would be a country where minorities were despised, and where that hatred would have been ratified by popular vote. It may just be me, but I think I will always remain appalled that Ireland is a country where civil rights can be dependent on majority approval.

The play wasn’t a brilliant piece of writing or acting but it was very moving.

However I think at this point I am referendumned out so after the first anniversary of victory in 10 days I don’t want to see, hear or read about that vote for a while.

The second play was ‘Must be Nice’ by Irish-American comedian Jimmy Doyle who grew up in Chicago in the 60s and 70s with his family in the Irish hood of South Chicago – an areas where The President will ALWAYS be JFK; where Brits are Bad and where your ranking is dependent on how Irish you are – top of the heap are the FBIs (Foreign Born Irish) followed by Jimmy’s family who are Irish on both sides but who are second or third generation American. Pity the poor mixed Irish – those unfortunates who have a Polish or German parent as well as an Irish one.

It’s a one man show rather than a play. I think it’s my favourite of the shows I have seen so far.

It’s the story of one gay boy’s family and upbringing in Chicago, and describes an unimaginable tragedy that falls on the family, and how they all cope and pull together and how it affects them all over the following years.

The actor is hilarious and bitter and angry in a typical Irish Daddy type of way.

This show is on tonight and twice on Saturday.

If you are inspired to see any show by my ramblings, then go see ‘Must be Nice’.


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