On a rooftop overlooking the town of Ennis, County Clare, Mikey and Casey are divvying up the proceeds of a bonfire night crime spree.
Robbing the local service station armed with a broken broomstick has netted them 16 euros, a few packets of M&Ms and a world of trouble.
The Garde, parked in the street below, have them cornered, the roof is slippery, and there’s no easy way down. All they have to keep them warm is the ounce of coke found stashed in a toilet cistern and each other.
In his first full-length play, Irish writer John O’Donovan presents a raw portrait of young gay men in an environment where there is no tolerance and no rainbow-stickered safe space. “A town a ten thousand people. What parade do we get?” Mikey rails. “I’m a parade. I’m a one-man parade.”
For Mikey (played by Eddie Orton), being out as a gay man in Ennis means having to stand your ground and use your fists. For the more reserved Casey, who grew up in west London and comes from a broken home, it’s about ducking and weaving the punches – most of them delivered by his mum’s drug dealer boyfriend – as best he can. If it means playing straight, so be it.
O’Donovan’s script crackles with gobshite humour and its observations on small town life are piercing but it’s the vividness of his youthful characters that makes the biggest impact in this rigorous yet tenderly observed staging directed by Warwick Doddrell.
Scrambling over every square inch of designer Jeremy Allen’s pitched roof, and with Melanie Herbert’s sound design and Kelsey Lee’s lighting adding splashes of bonfire night magic to the drama, Orton and Williams give it their all.
Orton is in the driving seat for much of the show and convinces as a young man for whom love and violence are intertwined and respect is paid for with bruised knuckles and black eyes. Working more quietly but just as intensely, Williams’ Casey is the best performance I’ve seen from this talented actor to date.
The combination of strong accents, coke-induced energy and raw feeling push the play to the edge of intelligibility at times, but the intensity and fragility of the relationship unfolding before you makes for an engrossing 90 minutes of theatre.