DAVID Ireland’s Yes So I Said Yes – running at the smashing Finborough Theatre in London’s Chelsea until Saturday December 18 – is not for the faint hearted.
Rape and bestiality feature in the 75 minute play — and there’s also a dose of violence that involves someone’s vital appendage being removed. But if you can deal with all that – and some won’t – it’s a rather amazing piece of theatre. Absurd? Yes. But never boring and ultimately thought-provoking.
What you will make of it all I do not know. But there are some key messages that come out of it in amongst all the clutter. For example, how past wrongs can eat away at your soul. The loneliness that many of us suffer from being an outsider.
Playing outside Northern Ireland for the first time since its controversial debut in 2011, Ireland’s play uses former Protestant paramilitary member Alan ‘Snuffy’ Black (a marvellous Daragh O’Malley) to look at a Northern Ireland coming to terms with the peace process.
Alan has done some terrible things in his past and it seems it has scarred him within – a fact confirmed by a gay Doctor O’Hara (a super Kevin Trainor) who examines him and says he is suffering from depression. Alan claims he can hear the neighbour’s dog barking incessantly at night, but when he confronts McCorrick (Owen O’Neill) the neighbour will have none of it.
Alan goes in search of help from the BBC and Eamonn Holmes in particular (like any sane person would do). But after being snubbed, he encounters the offending dog (a whimpering Trainor). Lando Calrissian is a fruity four-legged thing and it’s not long before Lando and Alan are doing things they really shouldn’t be doing.
This triggers a series of events that lead to Alan suffering some terrible things done to him – by two paramilitaries and his neighbour, with a female psychiatrist holding court.
It’s all rather brutal and difficult on the eye and ear. But the stellar acting helps ameliorate the pain (for the viewer, not Alan) and there are some mighty fine performances from Kevin Murphy and Declan Rodgers as the two squabbling Protestant heavies. While Murphy’s James Craig is a rabid, ranting and raving unionist, Rodgers’ Edward Carson is a little more conflicted. Parrot one moment, off piste the next. It’s not Morecambe and Wise fayre, but their amusing exchanges are the highlight of the play. Laura Dos Santos also excels as Aine, the psychiatrist who calls for a punishment to be inflicted on Alan that many will find hard to fathom.
All in all, a play that is both uncomfortable and strangely (weirdly) entertaining. The cast is magnificent, none more so than O’Malley. Pain seeps from his soul and shows in his eyes that have witnessed things no one should see. Never for a moment does he stop shaking.
Directed by Max Elton, Yes So I Said Yes will divide opinion. Quite appropriate given the play’s backdrop. Grab a ticket before it closes. 75 minutes of provocative theatre to counter the banality of Christmas.
Photos by Lidia Crisafulli