It’s Halloween in a small Irish town, and Casey and Mikey find themselves on top of Casey’s roof, hiding from the cops and well-stocked with drugs, cash and booze – but ultimately stuck, with nothing to do but wait for the all-clear. Hypothetically set two floors above the ground, the audience sits at eye-level observing the two characters talk about different matters, revealing startling realities in their lives and exploring their own feelings towards each other.
The Old Red Lion Theatre is an exciting setting, with the seats ascending sharply around the corner of the room, facing the action in the opposite corner. The drama unfolded before us in close proximity; a slanted roof with a chimney attached and only a few simple props enabled us to feel enveloped in the drama, and therefore closer to the characters – almost a ‘birds’ eye view’ of sorts. The only downside of the theatre is that it became unbearably hot by the end of the play, and I heard a few comments being made afterwards about it having distracted from the action, which is a shame. (It would definitely benefit the theatre to look into some kind of air conditioning method that wouldn’t disrupt the audio of the play, to keep from a member of the audience keeling over…)
Startlingly raw from the very start, this piece makes an instant impact upon its viewers. The script was dense, no easy feat for two actors to hold the stage as a duo for the entirety of the script, with no breaks or reprieve from the watchful audience. The script consists of one long conversation between the two young men, and was both written and performed with the most convincing naturalism – it almost felt unscripted, it flowed so well. Natural pauses, prolonged silences, moments of calm leading to moments of anger, channelling different emotions as the topic of conversation called for it…clearly, one ‘tried and tested’ script. We were actually given a copy of the script on the way in, in the form of a professionally published book – not only was I extremely impressed by this, but very pleased too, as it meant that I had the pleasure of re-reading it today.
I witnessed before me two exquisitely written characters, with more character development in 75 minutes than most sitcoms achieve in seven seasons. We witnessed several striking anecdotes, sending pangs of emotion throughout the room in unexpected moments of beautifully written and insightful prose. These characters were written to surprise and subvert; there is far more to these two young men than the impression of thievery and violence we first absorb. Ammar Duffus (Casey) successfully depicts a seemingly complex eighteen-year-old soul, no stranger to domestic violence and the challenges of hiding his sexuality in a town he doesn’t feel settled in. Duffus succeeds in presenting his emotionally tortured character, projecting a sense of melancholy in his exertions. Equally, Alan Mahon (Mikey) rides the difficult journey of a character who is both incredibly self-destructive and emotionally perceptive, performed with a boldness akin to that of a lion, fiercely confident in both his lifestyle and of Casey. Responsible for evoking the script’s most comedic moments (of which there were many), Mahon has a strong skill for delivering humorous prose, endearing us with his likeability.
I’m finding it difficult to imagine two different actors playing these roles, as both Duffus and Mahon’s partnership created a wholeheartedly intimate relationship abundant in affection and believable – if troubled – romance. Good luck to their successors in future productions, as the bar has been set high.
‘If We Got Some More Cocaine…’ successfully delves into several serious and culturally poignant issues that are sure to leave any member of an audience thinking. Writer John O’Donovan explores the notion of identity throughout, questioning what it means to ‘belong’, both in a small town and within one’s own self, in the framework of domestic violence, family upheaval and sexual orientation. O’Donovan’s writing is brought to life by an exceptional creative team and two highly accomplished actors, making ‘If We Got Some More Cocaine…’ both a heart-warming and emotionally harrowing experience.
Reviewed by Laura Evans
IF WE GOT SOME MORE COCAINE I COULD SHOW YOU HOW I LOVE YOU plays at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 24 September 2016