Former champion boxer John Duddy stars in Laoisa Sexton's unflinchingly honest portrayal of life in secular Ireland
For Love, the debut play by Irish writer and actress Laoisa Sexton (pictured above) – who also plays one of the three female leads – is a gregariously funny blue comedy about the sexual experiences of three 30-something women living, working and carousing in modern day Dublin.
Having premiered at the 1st Irish Theater Festival in New York in 2012 to rapturous applause and kind words from the critics, including Andy Webster at the New York Times, For Love began its current tour of Ireland in the Playhouse Theatre, Derry~Londonderry, as part of the UK City of Culture 2013 celebrations.
It is a truly transatlantic production, a collaboration between the Irish Repertory Theater in New York, and Grand Scheme Theatre in Dublin. Directed by Tim Ruddy, it features former international boxing professional and Derry native, John Duddy, as the male lead.
Exploring themes of love and loneliness, the quest for lust and idealism, this slick one-act play is a bare-faced (and often bare-cheeked) portrayal of life in 21st century Dublin, which is, of course, representational of all towns and cities in recession-hit Ireland today.
Having retired from the ring in January 2011, Duddy is relatively new to the acting profession. Here he plays Aidan, the charming and understated male counterpoint to Val, Bee and Tina.
Having studied at the T. Schreiber Studio & Theatre in New York, Duddy has paired down his typically pacy Derry accent, and should be commended for convincingly tackling some quite raw and raunchy scenes without awkwardness. Inevitably, though, his inexperience is exposed at times due to the sheer strength of the other actors.
Val (Jo Kinsella) is a two-night-stand-at-the-most kind of gal, who dreams of a tall, blond stranger, though ultimately settles for whatever she can get – be it the drunken pickings at the end of a night out, or a romp in the bushes with her sweaty boss after work.
Kinsella gives such a strong comedic performance that you can’t help but think that she has just walked out of a nightclub and on to the stage. All her character really yearns for is a little love and companionship among all the frivolous hook-ups and leg-overs, and Kinsella somehow manages to make the rather fragile Val endearing. She is definitely an actress to watch out for.
Single mother Bee (played by Sexton) works in a bank and is due to become a grandmother before her time. In all her naivety, she falls for the attentive charms of the suave but married Aidan, fresh from his return trip from America, though she remains morally cautious of his intentions.
Friends with Val, Bee believes in the romantic notion of love, and disagrees with Val's quickie approach to sex. But as friends, they support each other when the need arises.
And then there is Tina (Georgina McKevitt), the bolshy-glamour puss, a highly-maintained and middle class doll who is, albeit, a little rough around the edges. She seeks the kind of lavish lifestyle that her inattentive husband is unable, or unwilling, to provide.
Tina too meets the irresistible Aidan and succumbs to the same false charms. Such instant gratification, however, only works to further expose her obvious insecurities. The contrast between how Bee and Tina deal with their encounters with the same bloke is clearly defined and poignantly played.
All three actresses excel in their respective roles. United in their pursuit of love and companionship, there is, nevertheless, nothing clichéd about them. I can clearly identify with these very real, very modern women, and their very real dreams, dramas and dilemmas. I believe them, and urge them on to better things.
Most impressive, however, is the writing. There are some really superb poetic touches among the many humorous interactions in Sexton's script. For Love is a play full of wit, wisdom and sensitivity, and marks Sexton out as a playwright of singular ability.
I attend this Derry show with three other women. We laugh, cringe, sigh and applaud – and so too do the few brave males in the audience. For Love is a wry, honest and hilarious portrayal of life in secular Ireland.
For Love runs in the Grand Opera House, Belfast until Saturday, April 20.