Thursday, August 27, 2015

Language Unbecoming A Lady to go to New York

Language Unbecoming A Lady is a play written and performed by Limerick actor and playwright Myles Breen, who is something of a gay icon in all senses of the expression, and directed by Liam O'Brien. There's just one character, a drag queen, and the entire play takes place in her dressing room, as she tells her story of growing up gay, finding herself within himself (or vice versa), her life and loves, and how she is inspired by the great divas. This is a tough but very moving story to watch, especially when you consider that homosexuality was not decriminalised in Ireland until the early 1990s. So, within the context of the history of homosexuality in Ireland, and its place in society, this play is important.

Myles has been active in drama for many years, and you'll see him in films set in Limerick, including Angela's Ashes, possibly not the best vehicle to sum up the sense of enthusiasm and vitality that typifies 21st-century Limerick city, but it's the most famous one I can think of. Myles works with Bottom Dog Theatre Company, and also holds drama workshops in the city and county, and was recently awarded Limerick Person of the Year for his services to Drama and Theatre - recognition that many agree was long overdue. He's been in several Christmas pantomines as an ugly sister, a villain, and a long-suffering mother to the hero. He's also in the brilliant Choke Comedy performances with several other outstanding performers, which involve a lot of improvisation and audience participation and are the BEST antidote to workweek stress ever, you laugh so much you're high on endorphins for two days afterwards; and of course anyone who has been to Limerick Gay Pride festivities will have enjoyed Myles leading the now (in)famous Tea Dance, which is just great fun to participate in too.

Myles and the Bottom Dog Theatre Company have been invited to bring Language Unbecoming A Lady to New York, as part of the very prestigious Origin's Ist Irish Theatre Festival over there, but owing to cuts in the arts in Ireland in recent years, funds are low, hence the need to crowd-fund. In Limerick city, there is a gala fund-raising event taking place tonight in Dolans of Limerick, the details of which are available here, and the online crowd-funding campaign can be accessed here, through Indigogo. Every little bit helps.

In its own right, the play is the story of an individual at odds with the society in which he has grown up, but he still finds his place - or her place. It's funny, it's sad, it's hopeless in places, yet overall very hopeful for a more inclusive future in a more open and tolerant society. It's human. It speaks to those who inhabit the fringes, yet is confrontational. At the risk of throwing in a cliché that's been done to death: it's a story about someone coming of age. And perhaps more significantly, in the light of developments in Ireland in 2015, it reflects the story of a country coming of age, shaking off the yoke of social oppression disguised as spiritual dogma, and moving forward.

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