Review: Ulster American by Red Stitch Theatre

By Chloe Perrett


Set in a tiny but stylish apartment we first discover actor, Jay Conway and director, Leigh Carver deep in what feels like a lengthy conversation. It’s obvious that both men have been waiting in this room for sometime, as we watch Whitley’s character swiftly throwback another wine whilst attentively listening to Steve Bastoni's highly strung and confident, Conway. 


McCarthy’s stunning and precise set makes you feel as though you’re eavesdropping on this in-depth conversation. The set is well complemented by Willis and Lee’s subtle but effective lighting design in such a tiny space.  


The two creatives are discussing  Ruth Davenports perfect script as they anticipate her arrival and commence rehearsals the following day. We anxiously wait for Sarah Sutherland to appear on stage and continue to tune into these two men frantically engage in conversation. You don’t miss a beat between  them, and almost feel as though you’ve just smashed several Coca Colas with Conway and are feeling the effects of the sugar high. 


Cousins has created such a welcoming environment for the audience that it feels as though you are stabbed in the gut when Conway confidently asks Carver “Who would you rape, if you had to rape someone?” It’s this  gutting question that sets the bar for the remainder of the play. You can’t help but continue to question how inappropriate it is, but also why and how someone would even think of such an inhumane act. Conway gives his answer and then through the thickness of discomfort in the audience, forces Carver to give his answer as well. It’s almost normalised to a degree when Conway argues that he would choose a woman who would benefit from the rape. The consequences of him not picking someone would mean death for him, and so he debates that choosing a vulnerable woman would be the best choice. Somehow she could cash in on the unfortunate experience. 


It’s not noticeable at first, however, the sound design is slowly simmering away underneath the dialogue, like a ticking time bomb. What’re the consequences of asking such a question and how can you guarantee that someone would play out the actions. It’s not something to joke about and could be repeated to anyone, instantly damaging a person's reputation.


We anxiously wait for Sutherland to arrive and when she does the tension is immediately broken. Sutherland's energy upon entrance demands attention and allows the audience to draw breathe again. We learn that she has just been in a car accident with her Mother, but dashed straight to the apartment as the meeting before the first rehearsal was essential. Sutherland's Irish accent is on point and refreshing to the ear. It perfectly bounces off Bastoni and Whitley's well rounded accents. 


The three continue to drink and talk about Davenports masterful piece of work. Conway excuses himself to make a phone call and Carver confesses to Davenport the uncomfortable position he has been put in with the ‘question’. Davenport is immediately disgusted but encouraged to not say anything. It’s in this moment that we witness the body language between all three characters seamlessly change and watch how they react differently when placed in a  position of discomfort. Conway raves about the script and name drops that he’s already sent it to Quentin Tarantino and this makes Davenport lose her mind with euphoria. How easy it is to pursue a female creative with the promise of further work in higher places. 


The pace of the play begins to speed up when several disagreements are made and we watch as all three characters manipulate and team up on one another for their own good. Cousins beautiful director choices create an environment where you begin to question what you would do in a situation as the “ME TOO” movement, and more importantly if it was happening in a creative workplace. Do you just sweep a question out of context under the carpet? 


Davenport threatens to post a tweet exposing Conway and his sick statement.  The men instantly team together to and use psychological manipulation to get Davenport to delete the tweet draft. They threaten to blackmail her if not. The tension is thick and is then broken when Davenports phone starts to ring. Your heart breaks for her when we discover sudden tragic news. The sole female lead if left standing completely vulnerable and exposed. After Carver uses his statue to  remove her phone delicately from her hands, she excuses herself to go to the bathroom. Meanwhile, the two men attempt to delete the tweet draft. Is it really that easy to silence a woman when placed in an uncomfortable situation. 


Davenport returns and we watch as three characters crumble under the pressure. A Quentin Tarantino-esque scene unfolds and the last thing the audience is left with is the chirping sounds of a tweet has been retweeted. How easy, yet hard it is to expose the truth.

Photo Credit - Teresa Noble


All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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