Ulster American

Natasha Ciesielski
21st May 2024

Ulster American is hilarious. From the start till final bow, this play is a laugh a minute.

Finding comedy in the uncomfortable, Ulster American tackles some big topics and says much for the calibre of the performers and script that appalling questions can be asked and still generate laughter from the audience.

Ulster American is a pre-production meeting that goes horribly wrong. Set in a London apartment, the day before rehearsals are to start for a new play, the theatre director, lead actor and new playwright are to meet for the first time.

Whilst waiting for the Northern Irish writer Ruth Davenport (Harriet Gordon-Anderson) to arrive, Hollywood actor Jay Conway (Jeremy Waters) steers the conversation with director Leigh Carver (Brian Meegan), questioning the right of white men to use the n word. Overally polite Leigh is the epitome of a British man, taking bigger and bigger sips of his wine as he tries to respond and appease the verbose American star.

Drawing a collective gasp from the audience, Jay asks: is it ever morally acceptable to rape someone and sharing who he would rape. The conversation moves from awkward and uncomfortable to shocking and vile. The words coming from the oversharing actor stupefying. Poor Leigh is pushed to his limits and after a long uncomfortable silence, responds.

When Ruth finally appears, Leigh, visibly relieved, is compelled to share Jay’s remarks with her. Ruth explodes and says that they must confront him. Words are twisted, lines crossed, aliances shift, and the meet and greet spirals out of control.

Award-winning author David Ireland has written a dark script with strong punchlines and viseral dialogue that allows each of the actors to shine.

With perfect comedic timing, the trio of actors are brilliant. Waters is detestable as the entitled arrogant actor. The desperation of Meegan reeks as he attempts to get the play back on track. And Gordon-Anderson is fierce and uncompromising, playing the role with gloves-off vigor.

Directed by Shane Anthony, who has a passion for interrogating stories of social justice and humanity, he keeps the mayhem flowing in a calculated direction.

Shocking, rollicking and highly entertaining. Fast-paced raucous comedy Ulster American is a sensational hit. Highly recommend. Five stars.

Running for 75 minutes (no interval) Ulster American is playing now at Ensemble till the 8th June.
Recommended for ages 16+