Yes So I Said Yes by David Ireland – Finborough Theatre, London
The mental disintegration begins early in David Ireland’s play about a former loyalist gunman. Alan ‘Snuffy’ Black (Daragh O’Malley) is complaining to a doctor about his headaches, his problems sleeping, and the barking dog that keeps him awake. It is this, rather than the many people he admits to killing, that troubles him. The doctor (Kevin Trainor) seems inappropriately flip as he establishes that Alan has nothing in his life. He also seems inappropriately sexual. From this point, the play unmoors itself completely from any expectations of conventional drama, and launches into a gleeful, horrifying cascade of surreal events and forced sex. The dog in question (also played by Kevin Trainor) starts talking to him, and they get surprisingly intimate. Two masked Loyalist comrades with ludicrous names (played by Declan Rodgers and Kevin Murphy) show up to shoot him, repeatedly. A psychiatrist (Laura Dos Santos) gets involved, and stands in judgment. His neighbour ( Owen O’Neill) demands reparation. Ireland’s writing is packed with digs at sectarian mentalities, failure to change with the end of conflict, and the absurdities of people who take themselves so seriously. The cast launches into a script that, on the page, appears almost unperformable, with total commitment. They bring the audience with them all the way, mostly to places they would rather not go.
Written in 2011, before Ireland’s huge successes with Cyprus Avenue and Ulster American, Yes So I Said Yes is epically offensive but very finely honed. Ireland is not a writer who upsets his audience for the sake of it, but this earlier work cuts closer to the bone that either of his better know works. This production, directed by Max Elton, is advertised as the first in Great Britain. It’s perhaps not a surprise that a larger theatre has yet to take a punt on it, so the Finborough is to be congratulated for staging such a ludicrously provocative, yet unforgettable play. The final rape scene, which is both awful and comic, matches anything produced by writers such as Edward Bond during the 1960s assault on censorship. Writing of this nature demonstrates the purpose of theatre. Something this extreme yet also surreal could hardly be produced on film, but the stage allows for both realism and metaphor to combine, to maximum effect. This is an excellent production, and exactly what one would hope to see in a pub theatre in the back streets of Brompton.