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Hurrah for the first London staging of this play by David Ireland, most mordant of contemporary dramatists. No one who saw Vicky Featherstone’s coruscating production of Cyprus Avenue five years ago will have forgotten the Ulster Protestant who thought his baby granddaughter was actually Gerry Adams, nor the jack-knifing from comedy to killing. Now the tiny Finborough is ignited by Max Elton’s spot-on direction of an earlier play, one that the author considers “deranged”, “unapologetic in its recklessness”.
Yes So I Said Yes, first performed in Belfast in 2011, features a troubled soul, a former loyalist gunman who consults a doctor about the disturbing noise of a dog barking – which may be inside his head. The medic looks into his ears: his diagnosis is that they are very small. He pronounces that his patient has depression – and tells him not to be pessimistic about it. The man confronts a neighbour about the barking; the neighbour denies having a dog. He applies to the BBC for assistance. He meets a dog, who is, mmm, extremely forthcoming: anyone in doubt about how to do it doggy style can learn here. He is visited by men in balaclavas.
When first staged 10 years ago in Omagh, the play caused outrage, mostly on grounds of bestiality. Audiences at the Finborough are confronted with closeup violence. It is worth the flinch: to see an all-round strong cast and a central sonorous performance from Daragh O’Malley, his jaw sagging with accumulated anger; for Ceci Calf’s trim design; for the unusual foregrounding of the Unionist experience. Most of all, for the icy crackle of the dialogue. Caustic and comic, here is absurdity in the guise of logic: “I’ll rape if it helps us find peace.” A modest proposal in a direct line from Jonathan Swift.
Yes So I Said Yes is at the Finborough, London, until 18 December