In the run up to NAYD’s Young Critics Panel on Sunday Oct 4th as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival, we will be publishing a series of reviews from the Young Critics.
Over the summer months we asked the Young Critics to attend some shows in their own home venue. We asked them to make a short vlog review of the experience. We then asked a selection of them to turn these into written reviews. Dr. Karen Fricker offered some editorial advice.
First up, Olwyn Bell reviews My Second Self by Derek Masterson
With the successful marriage referendum a few months in the past and “Yes” posters nowhere to be found, some might forget how LGBTQ rights only recently started to become a reality in Ireland. My Second Self shows us the two different sides of homosexuality in our country and reminds us how we still have a long way to go for equality.
The play starts with Leyton telling us about himself through a monologue: he’s gay and that’s fine with him. Thommas Kane Byrne’s character is confident — maybe a bit too stereotypical! His apartment is filled with pictures of gay icons like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe which sets the tone as light-hearted. He is a 23-year-old man and the whole world is his stage. He is the embodiment of the “gay best friend” and maybe he uses this to hide his softer side.
Then we meet Paul (Barry Roe), who is seemingly the opposite of Leyton — a well-put together man in a three-piece suit, drinking coffee in a humble cafe. But he is like Leyton in one way: he’s gay. He meets Leyton just after attending his son’s funeral. It is revealed that Paul’s son committed suicide after coming out as gay. His son’s worst nightmare came true when his mother reacted badly to the news. Paul’s reaction is guilt as he lost his son to his own shame of being gay and not being as strong as his son to admit it.
One half of the stage is dedicated to Leyton’s apartment while the other is the cafe. This staging really worked as we see the metaphorical connection of Modern and Old Ireland. When Leyton and Paul meet at centre stage, older and younger generations come together towards a deeper understanding of homosexuality.
This play has a message of understanding: Ireland is changing and homosexuality is becoming a part of everyday life. People like Leyton are able to love who they want without much prejudice, while Paul had to hide his sexuality away. But this doesn’t mean that Leyton hasn’t got other problems to face. We see his feelings in a dream sequence in which both Leyton and Paul communicate their inner thoughts. The real Leyton, a broken man who needs his father’s love, contradicts the upbeat party animal we met at the start. Paul has hidden problems as well; we see his shame about being “a gay man in a straight situation” and about not being there for his son. This scene allows for deep character development.
My Second Self did an excellent job in showing the evolution of homosexuality in Ireland. We are given the older vision through Paul and the contemporary side with Leyton. Even in modern times, we see that the two men have lost something because of their sexuality: Leyton lost his father while Paul lost his son. This play has tragic elements with a mixture of comedy to make us realise that prejudice and fear around homosexuality are still a real thing.
Olwyn Bell is a member of Tallaght Youth Theatre and an NAYD Young Critic for 2015.
Join us on Oct 4th at 1pm to see the Young Critics in Project Cube as part of Dublin Theatre Festival.
The Civic Theatre Tallaght kindly supported this event.