Tuesday, May 6, 2014

International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, 'Eirebrushed'

Why was Elizabeth O'Farrell airbrushed out of the 1916 surrender photograph (only her feet remain, see bottom right)? The International Gay Theatre Festival opens with Brian Merriman's play about the gay heroes of that revolutionary year.

The New Theatre,
May 5-10

My review of Eirebrushed by Brian Merriman coming up just as soon as I'm the first confirmed sex tourist ...

Soft whispers of air can cover up puffiness and under-eye circles. Turns out they can erase you from history as well. 

On Easter Week 1916 Elizabeth O'Farrell - Cumann na mBan revolutionary and nurse - bravely walked onto a battlefield to deliver the rebels' surrender. Later she was removed from the photograph of the event (to enhance the macho display of victory for the British soldiers). Unlike other figures from the time, O'Farrell's heroic deeds have had a delayed reception in the public realm - not dissimilar to Rosie Hackett, whose name was righteously revived during the 1913 Lockout commemoration (want people to remember someone? Name a bridge after them). Could this resistance have to do with the fact that she was gay?

Brian Merriman's play imagines how gay revolutionaries may have wrestled with their sexual identity. Was it something to be ashamed of it? After all, the point of a revolution is to get rid of what doesn't belong.

It's amusing of Merriman to have a scene where Eva Gore-Booth and Roger Casement pry the suspected homosexuality out of Padraig Pearse. It's downright ambitious to suggest that a stroke of his pen, "Cherishing all of the children of the nation equally", is indicative of a desire to live in a republic where homosexuality is accepted. 

Unfortunately, Eirebrushed feels more like a textbook argument than theatrical discovery. Merriman, who is also on directing duties, hasn't developed a form that resonates visually or emotionally. You shouldn't notice an author's voice when reading a book; the characters should have a world of their own. It is more so the case onstage. Everyone sounds the same in this play, conforming to the same flowery academic rhetoric. A line about being "strangled in a corset of conservatism" made my ears bleed.

What did everybody else think?

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