Good theatre has a way of making us laugh at things that in other circumstances make us squirm with embarrassment or react with anger. Ulster American is good theatre. Writer David Ireland has crafted a script using carefully drawn characters to expose the many biases we all carry subliminally. Each believes they are fair-minded and open until the prejudices begin to be revealed.
The play opens with discussions around the planning for a new play written by Ruth Davenport, an award-winning Northern Irish playwright. Leigh Carver, an English theatre director is meeting with Jay Conway an Oscar-winning American actor in preparation for the beginning of rehearsals. As they wait for Ruth the men talk of many things including how bad rape is but also whether they could commit such an act at gunpoint and who with. That is where the uncomfortable but very funny comedy begins.
Scott Nell is perfect as Carver, very English and proper, Brendan Cooney relishes playing the brash and vain-glorious Conway, they work well together playing up the comedy. As Davenport, Cheryl Douglas completes the trio in a role that requires much of her various talents. In awe of Conway, she gushes on meeting him and all seems fine until they call her Irish, being born in Ulster she considers herself English. The ensuing unravelling includes uncovering racist, feminist and political undertones with Davenport and Conway deriding each other and Carver trying desperately to retrieve his production from the disaster happening around him.
Director Joh Hartog has a good cast and has melded them into a fine production. The clever script is not for the faint-hearted and none of the sacred cows are avoided. All three players interact with skill and the result is a great performance that will make you laugh in spite of yourself.