What the Animals Say
Oran Mor, Glasgow
June 3 – 8, 2019
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
As we settled in our seats, the simple set (6 chairs and a screen) effectively took us to the waiting room of the Stranraer to Belfast ferry. This two-hander by David Ireland (first performed at the Oran Mor in 2009) concerns two young men, Eddie (Jordan Young) and Jimmy (Kevin Lennon) who encounter each other in the ferry terminal. The two soon discover that they are actually old school buddies from Belfast although they then took completely different paths in life. We get an inkling of this from their attire, with Eddie looking very smart in his expensive track suit and state of the art headphones, while Jimmy is scruffier in rather down at heel casual gear.
It turned out that Eddie had made it big as a football star and now captains Glasgow Celtic and hobnobs with celebrities. Jimmy, as he continually impresses upon Eddie, is an accomplished actor, but is still seeking his big break; the role that will really put him on the map. At the moment he was on his way to an audition which he hoped could change his life, to be in a new Mel Gibson film. As the two converse, we see Eddie’s larger than life personality as he becomes more and more personal with Jimmy, and exposes his own sectarian and racist attitudes. The military-sounding flute and drum music that introduced the piece had already given us a clue as to the underlying themes what would be explored.
The contrast between the two characters couldn’t be greater, with Jimmy quoting Shakespearean passages in the face of an increasingly threatening and volatile Eddie. The content came fast and hard with the whole thing seeming to be an emotional outburst about the sectarian sector we know of in our society. The writing had a straight attitude towards that by simply having them state, the hard facts that are on the road in the Glaswegian lifestyle. It also got to the heart of its subject by posing abrupt emotions; as they really seem to lie in us that they both did with the same sincerity but also lightening the mood as needed be.
In the second part of the play, there was a complete turnaround. The scene changed to a dressing room where Eddie was practicing his lines. It drove Jimmy mad that Eddie now wanted to try his hand at acting and has persuaded Jimmy to help him with his lines in return for an introduction to Mel Gibson. But after some more personal jostling they both wind up with balaclavas on their faces, a no holds barred and rather shocking effect that was done with a little humour. Eddie held a small bat in his arms with much too great a relish. In the end Jimmy was beaten with the bat as Eddie just loses it and can find no more use of words. With its straight down the line dialogue, this play challenges many levels of perception, perspective and reality. You cannot look away, it was strong theatre.