02
Mar
13

I Heart Alice Heart I

I Heart Alice Heart I

HotForTheatre, Ireland

Visy Theatre

World Theatre Festival

Wednesday 20th – Sunday 24th February 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Featuring: Amy Conroy & Clare Barrett

 

The most delightful, heartwarming work of this year’s World Theatre Festival program, I Heart Alice Heart I, is a pseudo-doco that draws on the lives of two Alices – Alice Kinsella, played by writer and director, Amy Conroy, and Alice Slattery, played by collaborator Clare Barrett – and it’s a love story. About as far removed as we can get from another gay love story playing across town, this piece is intimate, simple and glowing, full to overflowing with quiet life and goodness. It’s goodness of the sort we forget about sometimes in the theatre – there’s very little theatricality about it – it’s old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness, face-to-face storytelling. It’s such a simple formula and it works so well here that it makes me wonder, as much as I love a big, bold blockbuster, why on earth we don’t see more of it.

 

I Heart Alice Heart I

I’d love to see somebody gentle and loving and caring scoop up I Heart Alice Heart I into their capable arms and make a wonderful film of it – a great many more people than those who can half-fill the Visy Theatre need to see it – it’s such a beautiful story, a conversation; fragmented, like any discussion between lovers, and it’s just about as real as it gets.

 

There is a great deal of careful, patient writing and direction. It’s a gem of an idea from the woman who observed the Alices kiss in the soup and condiments aisle of a supermarket in Dublin. That was Amy Conroy. Alice Kinsella is the first to agree to a lengthy process of interviews with Conroy, with Alice Slattery eventually unable to resist the fun of making a play and finally joining the party.

 

Through a series of monologues, as per the prompts tacked to the kitchen wall behind the nervous pair, the story is shared along with a photo of Alice’s younger sister, and a plate of chocolate cake. These are passed around and most audience members take the time and the opportunity to study the photo and eat the cake. This act of sharing supper, of “breaking cake” has a profound effect on the audience. Performance Studies guru Richard Schechner had reminded us earlier, in his conversation with Robyn Archer, that theatre is a shared meal. We make the supper and share it with friends. The Visy Theatre, full of friends, truly felt like the Alices’ home; it’s as if we sat at the kitchen table with them.

 

I Heart Alice Heart I

Beautifully assembled and carefully, deliberately delivered, I Heart Alice Heart I means that, whether they actually exist or not, these two women, once ashamed, shy and quiet, can finally be seen. Once they were invisible to the world, now they are visible and proud, proud of themselves and of their 29-year long relationship, with all its hurdles, scars and smiles.

 

I Heart Alice Heart I is a story that is easily received, regardless of where you stand on gay relationships. And I say that because so many, still, are unsure as to where they stand…or worse, they are far too certain. I spoke with some senior students the other day about the Drama kids at their school having the opportunity to see a play about a gay relationship and one bright girl spoke up immediately, telling us that while she’s under his roof, her father would never allow her to attend such a production!

 

I have enormous confidence in the power of theatre, and it is work – and talking about work – such as Holding the Man and  I Heart Alice Heart I that might just help change the world a little bit.

 

 

 

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