Written by Frank McGuinness
Direction and lighting by Mark Pollard
Produced by The Actors Circle (London)
Cast: Clare Kissane, Margaret Moore, Fiona Cuskelly, Mark Pollard and Anthony Kinahan.
When I heard about the Dublin Gay Theatre festival, to be honest I was a bit skeptical. If you are going to have a festival entirely devoted to the celebration of homosexual culture – is that not going to be slight counter-intuitive? Is that not going to reinforce the stereotypes of homosexuality which gay rights activists are against?
However, that’s probably just me nit-picking – would like to hear your thoughts tho?!
It does throw into question the criteria of getting a play placed on the festival’s program. Does it have to have gay themes, or just written by a writer who is gay? Really the only difference between gays and straights is our choice of gender in terms of bedroom activity – well that’s the way it should be anyways, so therefore gay themed theatre should be all about sex! Some of the plays on the program suggest this – such as “Two Boys In A Bed”.
“The Bird Sanctuary” touches on gay themes among other themes running concurrently throughout the play. It consists of three siblings – two sisters and a brother who is married and has one son – our gay character! There is tension between Stephen and his parents who either object because of Catholic reasons or are in complete denial. I don’t want to dwell too much on the gay theme as I believe there are more qualities to the play worth mentioning. The play is beautifully written and weaves the characters together as natural siblings with this on again off again affection for one another as only siblings can manage to pull off.
The characters dwell on childhood memories, which offer them sanctuary from their disappointing adult lives. Their childhood home seems to be the signifier of their relationships with one another – once beautiful and now crumbling.
The play was well performed by all involved – Clare Kissane was fantastic as the dark and quirky Eleanor, but for me I think that Fiona Cuskelly’s performance as Tina was fantastic and so identifiable – she brought a real softness to a character that could have been really unlikeable.
The only thing I would fault was the very end of the play. It was brought together by McGuinness in a touching conclusion but tipped over the end by an over sentimental playing of Dusty Springfield’s “Goin’ Back”. It ruined those last twenty seconds which otherwise would have been poignant.
Other than that minor upset, I found the play superbly entertaining with the right mix of humour and emotion. For the life of me I cannot understand how the guy next to me kept falling asleep, and why he returned for the second half when he obviously hated it. He also had the nerve to not clap at the end – what an …..?!
Have you been to see “The Bird Sanctuary”? What did you think?