Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Luck Just Kissed You Hello - masculinity explored under the shadow of death (Outburst Festival)

Around a hospital waiting room table sit twin sons (one gay, one transgender) along with a substitute son of a dying man. They’re arguing about who deserves to deliver Big Ted’s eulogy and what they should say. The fractious debate is as much about their own insecurities as the old man’s lasting legacy on their lives and loves.
“You’re remembering it wrong; take the tin foil off your windows.”

Into this emotional and pressurised environment Gary, Mark and Sullivan bring their differing recollections of a particularly traumatic childhood experience. As they piece together the jigsaw of memories, the emerging picture threatens to undermine their long-held impressions of each other and their father.

Carl Kennedy’s sound design for Luck Just Kissed You Hello manages to keep the sound of intensive care constantly in the background without becoming obtrusive. Low frequency rumbles and John Crudden’s flickering lighting introduces flash back sequences that introduce some variation to the three-in-a-prison-cell plot. (Very effective embedding of lights in a prop for a later scene.)

Writer Amy Convoy plays Mark (who left home many years ago as Laura) who is faced with the dilemma of whether to sign an organ donation form as his father’s daughter and stated next of kin. At first he sees little reason to betray his own identity and to betray his memory of his father who lies nearby in a coma.

The weaving together of different characters’ dialogue works effectively and the early parts of the hospital room conversation emphasises the closeness of the twins with its verbal table tennis rallies, unison delivery of lines and finishing of each other’s sentences. Director Caitriona McLaughlin has created space for some laughs alongside the angst. The choreography blurs and perhaps becomes too repetitive, no longer distinctive, as the play enters its final half hour.

Will O’Connell plays the business man brother whose birthright has been usurped by his twin’s swap from Laura to Mark. The tension of death exposes fears and vulnerabilities amongst family as much as it binds people together. While the muscular Sullivan has stepped into the role of son vacated by the absent twins, he is unsettled by the emergence of skeletons buried beneath his own marital bliss.

Ultimately the play only brings about a fulsome resolution for its central character. This is Mark’s story. In the end Gary and Sullivan are ancillary members of the cast, with an equal share of the lines, but no inherited closure in what might well have been a contrived and saccharine solution. The final monologue contains an ambiguous – nearly outrageous – phrase (“I am his only legacy”) which I still can’t quite resolve and made me want to heckle at the time.

Confronting queer mental health issues, family friction and betrayal, Luck Just Kissed You Hello is a production that explores different models of masculinity and is well worth seeing at the Lyric Theatre (Tuesday 15 and Wednesday 16 November as part of Outburst Queer Arts Festival) before it continues its tour of Donegal, Limerick and Dùn Laoghaire.

Images: Hot For Theatre

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