DUPed by John McCann – Sweet Grassmarket, Edinburgh
John McCann is a playwright, born in Portadown, but now based in Fife. Frustrated both by the bigotry of the Democratic Unionist Party back home and by the ignorance and indifference of his friends in Scotland, he sets out investigating who the DUP are, how they came to hold the balance of power in Britain and, most importantly, what he feels about them as someone who left Ulster. As a rigorous theatre-maker, he travels to Northern Ireland to interview people who have come into conflict with the DUP. He discusses the doctrines of hatred that have spawned and driven the DUP, particularly towards gay people and Muslims. A recent example involves Peter Robinson, former First Minister of Northern Ireland, qualifying an Islamophobic sermon by a local pastor, by explaining that he would trust a Muslim in certain circumstances, such as serving him in a shop.
DUPed is staged as a monologue, in a carpeted hotel conference room, with only a Bible and a megaphone. These highly symbolic props are used to good effect: whenever McCann picks up the megaphone, he becomes Rev. Ian Paisley, and it is hard to disagree with his focus on the baleful influence the late preacher still casts over Northern Ireland. McCann highlights important political questions that slide beneath the radar, as Great Britain ceases to take a close interest in Ulster. Meanwhile, religious divisions remain as powerful as ever. McCann’s discussions with those caught up in continuing cultural conflict lead him to the conclusion that there is hope. The popular majority for equal marriage and abortion rights in the Republic of Ireland is a new dynamic for change. He also feels that confrontation will resolve nothing: talking to the DUP is the only answer. The show is a low-key but important monologue, fascinating in itself but something that also feels like the notes for something bigger to come.