We were lucky enough to catch ‘To Be Men’ in rehearsal last week and now we can’t wait to see the whole show.
This is the kind of physical theatre we like. It’s in your face. It’s taut, visceral and intriguing. And the many sides of two men at a wake keeps us guessing. Surely there is something going on which we, the audience, don’t yet know about?
Donal and Padraig are cousins that probably haven’t seen each other since the Good Friday Agreement. That’s already a generation ago.
Donal crossed the water and got nicely set up in England. Padraig stayed on the farm, mending the tractor, and is still fantasising about Siobhán after all these years: “Surely she has the most bluest eyes a man has ever seen”.
Donal suggests ‘lovely’ Siobhán is a feminist. “So perhaps she prefers the ladies, mate.” That doesn’t suit Padraig’s fantasies at all.
There’s a delicious and uncomfortable sense of something held back. But is that something strange or disastrous, criminal or cruel? Maybe there is an undercurrent of secrets and superstition that we don’t yet understand.
One minute these cousins are like friendly old mates, chummy and chatty, meeting after ages! The next minute they are ready to start throwing rocks and strangling each other, apparently, over nothing. So what is it between these two blokes? Are there old scores to settle? Aren’t men so cute!
Does Donal still remember the old stone on the hill? “You do, don’t you?” Asks Padraig. And it sounds more like an threat than an amusing family trope.
Donal is a bit fancy these days. But Padraig stayed on the farm, dreaming of a new tractor. Two lives cross in a tangled forest. Maybe there are some old scores to settle?
Funerals are, of course, a social occasion. Aunt Rosie is outside talking to the priest. Hey! You need to have flowers at a funeral and wear a suit too. It’s a convention. Secrets and tension. Why do you try your phone! You won’t get a signal here. Er, does anyone know what’s happening to the inheritance?
This tale unravels through dialogue and body work that is taut, alert and accurate in depicting tenderness or anger.
Fintan Shevlin (Weeman Theatre), who conceived this play, has plenty of form. He grew up in County Tyrone during the Troubles, trained at LIPA (Liverpool), performed at the Lyric (Belfast) and now lives in Brighton. He and Warren Rusher are directed by Gerry McCrudden, with Mario McEntee (original sounds) and Dan Walker (light and sound). This production follows Fintan’s Pebble Trust nominated play ‘Bomb Sex’.
See it close up at that funky cafe. This is the kind of play that Padraig would hate and Donal would love.
Brighton Fringe, Presuming Ed Cafe, 114-115 London Road, BN1 4GJ
May 19th, 20th and 21st 2022
Tickets available here
Photo by Alex Bamford