An Irish American, English and Northern Irelander walk into a serviced apartment…It’s the stuff jokes are made of, but Ulster American, the latest production from Scotland’s Traverse Theatre Company, is definitely no joke.
Appearing for the Adelaide Festival on Saturday 16 March 2019 at the Dunstan Playhouse Ulster American, written by David Ireland and Directed by Gareth Nicholls, is a hilariously passionate rollercoaster of commotion and emotion that is both delightful and shocking. It is the story of Jay (Darrell D’Silva), a raucous Oscar-winning actor elated to be the lead in a play that associates with his Irish heritage, Leigh (Robert Jack), an English Director who will stop at nothing to get what he wants and Ruth (Lucianne McEvoy), a feisty Northern Irish playwright whose script has the potential to become a West End sensation. When the three meet in Leigh’s apartment to discuss the play’s intricacies prior to rehearsals commencing, lines are crossed. The discussion intensifies to a perilous and viciously bloody apex.
The insipidness of designer Becky Minto’s autumnal, neutral colour scheme is noticeable and serves a purpose. It does not detract from Ireland’s script which is not only funny but genuinely and consistently gut clenching hilarious. It is intelligent, articulate, poignant and controversial with suitable peaks and troughs that encourage emotive reactions. Every word is deliberate and necessary to travel along Jay, Leigh and Ruth’s journey.
While Ireland lays the foundations of Ulster American, D’Silva, Jack and McEvoy bring it to life with their performance. Three individually wonderful performances together create an exceptional ensemble piece. Pointedly flawed characters become likeable over the course of ninety minutes despite the, at times, horrendous subject matter discussed. The infusion of humour and its accurate delivery should be credited for this as without it this play would adopt a far different tone.
Ulster American is a contemporary black comedy with an engaging plot that is not afraid to offend. As the action progresses so too does the tension in the room until it is so palpable you could bite it. Certainly not for the faint-hearted or easily offended it is a sensational piece of entertainment guaranteed to provoke, generate conversation and leave you feeling a bit squeamish.
Adelaide Festival Review By Anita Kertes