Yes So I Said Yes Review – The Guardian

Yes So I Said Yes Review – The Guardian

1600 1068 19th Street Productions - Theatre Production Company, London

Yes So I Said Yes review – prepare to be appalled

★★★★

Finborough theatre, London
David Ireland’s provocative, surreal, intensely brutal farce finds a former loyalist paramilitary seeking mediation from Eamonn Holmes for a dispute with his neighbour.

With much current fiction seeking ticks for sensitivity and positive representation, the work of David Ireland is a spectacular defence of free speech and the right to offend. In Cyprus Avenue (2016), an Ulster unionist enacts a massacre after becoming convinced his baby grandchild is an IRA sympathiser, while Ulster American (2018) shows an Irish Protestant playwright driven to murder by Hollywood’s depiction of Irish history.

However, an early work, Yes So I Said Yes (2011), belatedly receiving what is billed as its “Great Britain premiere”, suggests that the writer subsequently mellowed. Even a partial trigger warning for this script would have to cite rape, bestiality, priestly paedophilia and mental illness. These occur within a scabrous, surreal comedy also incorporating a possibly transexual talking dog.

In dispute with a neighbour over night noise, Alan “Snuffy” Black, a former loyalist paramilitary made redundant by the peace process, goes to BBC Ulster to seek the mediation of Eamonn Holmes. (That broadcaster has been substituted for Stephen Nolan in the original script because, Ireland notes in the programme, Nolan is little known in England – a view that may depress BBC 5 Live, for whom he presents nine live hours a week.)

With racial stereotyping rightly a serious concern in theatre, Ireland’s repeated presentation of Northern Irish Protestants as psychopaths whom Hannibal Lecter might hesitate to dine with could be problematic, except that the playwright identified in a recent Guardian interview as a “proud unionist”. He dramatises through exaggeration the abandonment and confusion that some in his community feel because of solutions to the Troubles and Brexit, which they see as nationalist victories. Daringly even by this writer’s standards, Yes So I Said Yes uses terrible acts of sexual violence as a metaphor for modern Northern Ireland from the loyalist perspective.

On the cramped patch of the Finborough stage, director Max Elton marshals a marvellous cast of six with the quick fluidity vital to farce. Go prepared to be appalled and challenged. But, with Martin McDonagh now lost to movies, Ireland is the only British writer using theatre for extreme physical and intellectual provocation of audiences in the manner of recent American plays such as Suzan-Lori Parks’ White Noise and Aleshea Harris’s Is God Is.

With racial stereotyping rightly a serious concern in theatre, Ireland’s repeated presentation of Northern Irish Protestants as psychopaths whom Hannibal Lecter might hesitate to dine with could be problematic, except that the playwright identified in a recent Guardian interview as a “proud unionist”. He dramatises through exaggeration the abandonment and confusion that some in his community feel because of solutions to the Troubles and Brexit, which they see as nationalist victories. Daringly even by this writer’s standards, Yes So I Said Yes uses terrible acts of sexual violence as a metaphor for modern Northern Ireland from the loyalist perspective.

On the cramped patch of the Finborough stage, director Max Elton marshals a marvellous cast of six with the quick fluidity vital to farce. Go prepared to be appalled and challenged. But, with Martin McDonagh now lost to movies, Ireland is the only British writer using theatre for extreme physical and intellectual provocation of audiences in the manner of recent American plays such as Suzan-Lori Parks’ White Noise and Aleshea Harris’s Is God Is.