Ulster American (4 stars)

This article is from 2018

Ulster American

credit. Sid Scott

A brutal, unsettling and uncompromising dark comedy about power

Is roarcore a genre? If not, David Ireland's the man to invent it. His new play won't be for everyone, but will leave open-minded audience members feeling like a chew toy once they leave - in all the best ways.

Swaggering Jay Conway (portrayed by Darrell D' Silva with vicious vigour) is a veteran American actor: part Kris Kristofferson, part Yosemite Sam, and all bastard. He's about to embark on what could be the project of his career, a new play set in Ireland. Problem is, he doesn't even know where Ulster is.

Placated by seemingly wet liberal director and yes man Leigh (Robbie Jack), Conway lets slip an ill-judged and tasteless comment about Princess Diana in a debate about limitations. And when it emerges the playwright Ruth Davenport (Lucianne McEvoy) is not only a feminist, but a unionist, Conway, from a Roman Catholic background, is faced with more than an ideological battle on his hands.

Ireland's script is as incendiary as it is hilarious: a bloody romp with three excellent performances that are dense with ideas about identity, semantics, the personal as political, and the political as personal.

With #MeToo still foremost in people's minds, Ruth Davenport is the heroic riposte to the boorish Weinstein generation: a strong woman who not only reacts, but enacts, a catalyst for change in a corrupt, shallow but money obsessed industry.

Ulster American pulls down Hollywood and spanks it; a timely reminder that the expiry date for showbiz misogyny passed a long time ago.

Traverse Theatre, 4–26 Aug (not 6 ,13, 20), times vary, £20.50 (£15–£15.50).

Ulster American

  • 4 stars

A play by David Ireland that follows an American Oscar-winning actor, an English director and a Northern Irish playwright as they make a play about Irish identity, only to result in abuses of power and the silencing of women's voices.