Don’t have time to read the full review? Click here for a quick summary of the who, what, where and wine of this production.
David Ireland’s Ulster American calls itself a ‘post #MeToo’ production. What it actually proves, however, is that we are nowhere near ‘post’ the age of rampant misogyny in the arts industry – and that #MeToo cannot be forgotten or moved on from any time soon.
Directed by Shane Anthony, this dark comedy provocatively dismantles the way we perceive misogyny and political ideologies. It reminds us that the left isn’t always the most morally virtuous, the right isn’t just rich old white men, and the patriarchy is alive and well on both sides of the political divide.
Playwright Ruth, Oscar-winning actor Jay, and theatre director Leigh meet to discuss Ruth’s script about the complex history of Northern Ireland, excited for what they might get out of it – fame, a connection to their Irish history, and the opportunity to share their anti-Brexit views through their theatre respectively. But as each of the men learn they’ve misunderstood Ruth’s script their true colours emerge, and they increasingly harass, undermine and gaslight her to achieve their own ends.
We learn that Jay (Jeremy Waters) is the scariest type of ally – the one that cheers for female empowerment in public but enjoys rape jokes in private. We learn that Leigh (Brian Meegan) is only remotely feminist when it’s easy, falling back into behaviour accepted in the pre-#MeToo era quickly when it suits him better. And we see the most extreme portrayal of Ruth’s (Harriet Gordon-Anderson), complete disillusionment from an industry she thought she had conquered due to overt sexism and political differences.
This is a dialogue heavy play, partially due to the considerable context that needs to be set for us to understand the complex geopolitics of Northern Ireland that fuel our characters’ outrage at each other and partially due to the massive argument that comprises the large part of the performance. For that reason, the set is a fairly standard upper-middle-class townhouse. A nice feature is the addition of a staircase that we can see through a clear glass window, which adds some height and movement to this very concentrated scene.
Profane language, disturbing references to sexual assault, and violence provoke shock and breed resentment towards Jay and Leigh in particular, with the only hint of a line being drawn a discussion of why no one can say the ‘n-word’ – and they do their best to justify it. I wonder how much of this play will be unacceptable in 10 or 20 years.
Wine Pairing | Shiraz
Shiraz is my go-to for bold plays like Ulster American. Aussies pushed the boundaries of European-style Shiraz to create the larger-than-life Shiraz we know and love and it’s the perfect deep red to stain the shirt of the person whose face you throw it in during a heated argument.
My Pick: Windance Vineyard, 2021 Shiraz, Margaret River, WA
This Shiraz is velvety and bursting with ripe black fruit, pepper and spice on the nose and palate. On the more savoury side of Shiraz, a testament to the quality of Margaret River wine.
|Aussie Season||8 to 11 June, Riverside Theatre, Paramatta, Sydney|
15 to 18 June, Seymour Centre, Sydney
Outhouse Theatre Co
|Theatre Type & Genre||Play, dark comedy|
|See it if you like||satire, controversial and provocative stories|
|Criteria for Wine Pairing||bold, high alcohol, strong savoury flavour notes|