Three men, playing technicians, enter and start to build the set for what will turn out to be a female artist's spoken word/song and dance performance. Playing her evolution synthesizer, she comes across as a (not very believable) diva and rather unsympathetic team-leader, while the male workers building the set feel more familiar and human. In fact, most of the conversations that unravel between the three men as the stage building project progresses are highly recognisable for anyone local to Dublin. Or Ireland. Or our Western civilisation. It is lighthearted banter covering mackerel, alien species, Colombian mafia, city planning, cancer, oxygen, accidental death and Deliveroo-heroes. The delivery is naturalistic, and director Una McKevitt is clearly working hard toward creating a sense of realism. At one point, one of the three goes outside for a cigarette. Leaving the door open allows us to smell the tabacco, to feel the cold.
Suddenly the mood changes. In the midst of a violent soup, stories of peadophilia and sexual abuse are told, followed by a domestic abuse story told in the first person by the perpetrator. The recognisable dudes are suddenly doing something highly unfamiliar - in an air of acceptance and openness they share their darkest secrets, revealing the nature of both abuser and abused. With a considered script and performance, it is refreshing to be given access to a space in which men are allowed to speak freely and with sensitivity about such delicate matters. As an audience member I received their stories in heartfelt empathy, and admired the courage and simplicity with which they were shared. Then, again the lighthearted stream of consciousness was back, pondering all the things that might potentially kill us.
Maria for DRAFF
Alien Documentary by Una McKevitt runs at Project Arts Centre as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival until October 14th. Image Ste Murray.