Having attended the thirty-fifth anniversary memorial to the Fairview Park March (held to protest the leniency of the sentences handed down to the killers of Declan Flynn in a brutal gay bashing in 1983 – you can read my account of the day in the linked GCN article) I was very keen to attend The Players’ Theatre in Trinity College this evening, to see the play ‘The Drowning Room’. This play is part of the ongoing 15th International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. It tells a tale similar to the Flynn case – but told in a fictionalised version, set in the present day.
In the dead of night in a woodland picnic area, the friends and family of Sean gather to scatter his ashes. Sean has been brutally murdered in a gay-bashing, and today his killers have been handed down thoroughly inadequate jail sentences. As they wait for the sun to rise, they are drinking and bickering and remembering, when an unexpected guest arrives – the father of one of the killers. Needless to say this causes consternation. But does he have answers to unresolved questions?
This is a play with a very interesting premise – the Flynn case has an eternal relevance to the Irish LGBT community – being as it is the inspiration for the modern Irish Gay Pride movement – Ireland’s answer to the Stonewall Riots in a sense. How do people react to such brutality? Can there be forgiveness? Is forgiveness even possible?
The plays makes a decent effort in answering these questions. The sense of anger and desolation is keenly felt. The performances are strong – particularly the turn by the character of uptight, straight friend Kevin (sorry I can’t name the actor as his name is not on the flyer.) The woodland set was beautifully designed and evocative of the eerie atmosphere.
Other parts were slightly unbelievable however – having spent a fortnight on the jury in a serial rape case last month, I remember thinking ‘Hang on a minute, it doesn’t work like that’ when the characters were describing the court case.
The set up with the father of one of the killers didn’t really ring true to my ears either – seeming to offer a potential resolution to an impossible situation.
Nevertheless it was a moving and thought provoking exploration of the aftermath of the type of senseless brutality, which has thankfully diminished in regularity in recent years.
Written by Verity-Alicia Mavenawitz, and directed by Maria Blaney, ‘The Drowning Room’ is playing at 2.30pm and 7.30pm on Saturday May 12th.
You can get tickets on the door or at http://www.gaytheatre,ie. Go check it out.