Written by, and starring Ann Blake, and co-starring Lucia Smith, it is one woman’s tale of her gay life – her coming out; falling in love; battling the inner conflict that many gay people endure at some point to counter the insidious drip of homophobia in which society can still marinate. It also recounts the run up to that terrifying day in 2015, when after a three month referendum campaign our country told us that there was a place at the table for us.
I loved the play back in 2018. I still love it. It is a story told with humour and warmth by both actors. Blake is the narrator, telling of her own experience and Smith plays various other characters which crop up – Ann’s girlfriend (now wife) Jenny, who struggles with rubbish disposal; the vinegar lipped registrar who didn’t approve of a same sex civil partnership; as well as being a real life foil, to guide the story along at an engaging pace. The script was hilarious and moving. I was almost biting my nails as the tale reached voting day. This may seem foolish – we all know the outcome of the vote. My imagination still turns to ‘what if’?
It brought me back to that day, and the fear that I lived in at the time. What if our country told us that we were not fully fledged citizens deserving of equal civil rights and that we needed to be happy with our lot.
I was one of the ‘home to vote’ crew which is described in the play. I had made the decision in January 2015 that I was moving back to Ireland after 15 years in Amsterdam depending on the outcome of the referendum. Having followed the campaign from Holland, on the day the voting day was announced I booked a flight. The vote was on Friday. I arrived home on Wednesday to the toxic sight of the ‘No’ campaign posters, smeared like a fungal infection, on every street light and electricity pylon. The day before the vote, I joined the ‘Yes’ canvas on Thomas Street in Limerick and later knocking on doors in Janesboro. A lovely memory comes from that experience – when a group of teenagers approached me in my hi-viz canvassing jacket. Worried that they might be abusive, I was pleasantly surprised when the boy who couldn’t have been more than 15 asked for stickers. He was gay, and upset the he couldn’t vote but he and his friends all left with the ‘Vote Yes’ stickers on their shirts.
The next day I took my voting card and cast my vote (illegally – you are not allowed to vote, if you have not been resident in Ireland for over two years. I had never deregistered however. I didn’t care that I was ‘technically’ breaking the law. I hadn’t been impressed that politicians had deemed it acceptable to make minority civil rights a voting matter . I was scared that the Nos would win it, so I silenced my conscience and cast my ballot. I would finally move home that August.
This play is generous to the ‘No’ side – there is no anger, bitterness or rancour.
‘The morning after the life before’ is a snapshot in time of an unforgettable day; and the extraordinary courage of ordinary people who lived through the ordeal of a vote about our civil rights.
To see the play in its hometown, which will soon be my hometown was a wonderful experience. I believe this play should have a revival.