Jay Conway (Darrell D’Silva) is an Oscar winning American actor with a big ego and a bad attitude. He is leisurely hanging out in a hotel room with the anxious theatre director Leigh Carver (Robert Jack). Leigh nervously sips from a glass of wine and attempts to appease the bravado of the actor. They are waiting for Northern Irish playwright Ruth Davenport (Lucianne McEvoy) to arrive. The writer is running late, so the two men have time to pontificate over race, feminism, gender and the Bechdel Test. The more they talk, the more they expose themselves and reveal the themes of the performance.
During Ulster American there is a play within a play. Eventually the playwright arrives and the director and actor express their ignorance again when they realise that they have completely misread Ruth Davenport’s text. They thought they were bringing a post-Brexit, Irish story to the stage. Instead the playwright has written a British and Conservative play about The Troubles. This revelation heightens the tension and brings about an all mighty conflict. The ignorant actor wants the play to be rewritten from an Irish Catholic perspective, the playwright wants her words to be respected, meanwhile the director only cares about staging a play with a big name Hollywood actor. Ulster American is a very exposing performance. We see artistic conflict and ignorance laid bare. Nationality and identity is discussed with bold and forceful language, making the performance provocative and revealing.
What really draws the audience in is the humour. There is barely a moment without a laugh, even though the topics discussed are important and prevalent. The comedy makes Ulster American feel relevant and accessible, as we are witness to the blind ignorance of the characters. The ending is graphic, violent and explosive. The tension, suspense and conflict boils over in an outrageous style that satirises Hollywood cinema and brings the performance to an exhausting conclusion. David Ireland has written a funny and important play that feels fresh and completely relevant in 2018.