Originally written for The Public Reviews
Project Arts Centre
In going to see HotForTheatre’s production of “I Heart Alice Heart I,” the audience are not told a story, they do not simply watch a show; they are invited into the lives of Alice Slattery (Clare Barrett) and Alice Kinsella (Amy Conroy). From the moment Barrett and Conroy step nervously onto the stage, tugging anxiously at cardigan pockets, wringing their hands and breathlessly telling themselves and each other what to do; they bring us into the welcoming, moving and very real world of the two Alices. Presenting a fictional story in a documentary theatre style, Conroy conveys the tale of these two women’s lives, and on a broader scale, elements of the lives of many people around the world with a beautiful honesty and openness.
This show was a simply told, stunningly moving piece of theatre. As Barrett and Conroy bounced the story back and forth between them, taking it in turns to tell the audience part of their tale or comment on what the other said, they created a perfectly paced and balanced mix of humour and seriousness throughout. Even as they said comic lines and pointed out each others’ amusing flaws, the audience never laughed at the characters, always with them. From their nervousness and the heart-warming story they told, came a sense of not only them supporting each other, but of everyone in the auditorium, both on and offstage alike, bolstering and supporting each other.
Helping bring Conroy’s excellent writing and her and Barrett’s superb performances to life was the detailed and interesting design of the stage, with the whole play mapped out within the set through posters, charts, post-its and postcards. John Crudden’s lighting design and Ciaran Omelia’s set complimented the scripting and performances, capturing the feeling behind the piece, the setting of the story, and the audience’s imaginations perfectly.
Finally, at the end of the show there was a “Call to Conscience,” where a number of well-known Irish citizens give a small talk on the subject of the upcoming marriage referendum. At last night’s performance the speaker was Ailbhe Smyth, feminist and lesbian activist, who gave an insightful and interesting discussion of the upcoming referendum and a call for people to vote. This addition to the show, reminiscent of the Abbey Theatre’s Noble Call after performances of The Risen People last year, bridges the gap between the stage and the lives of the audiences, and brings the message of this fictional story firmly into the reality that informed it.
In short, this is a heart-warming love story which, through sparkling comedy, emotive storytelling, and touching honesty, brings a powerful message to the audience and teaches about love, life and equality.