Brighton Fringe 2018
With heart and humour this story of marriage equality will still be with you the morning after.
Ireland has been in the news lately, who would have thought that a country who a mere two decades ago voted for legal divorce would suddenly be a leader in social justice reform on a national scale? Certainly not Ann and Jenny, when they met and fell in love in Dublin. Written by Ann Blake, brilliantly performed by Ann as herself and Lucia Smyth in the role of Jenny and thoughtfully directed by Paul Meade, The Morning After the Life Before is a joyous, life-affirming fourth wall-breaking intimate detailing of the white knuckle journey to marriage equality in Ireland.
Told from the perspective of Ann, a traditional Irish lass who suddenly discovers after repeated encounters with the sweet, intelligent and tenacious Jenny, that in fact, Ann is in love with a woman, in conflict with her strict Irish Catholic upbringing, the story begins at the end and then returns to the beginning, detailing in a series of delightful, playful and humorous vignettes underscored occasionally by singer/songwriter Ann on guitar, their courtship and at times uncomfortable reckoning of her relationship with her family and friends, from confounded to supportive, to downright cruel.
The narrative is at times broken by the delightful interruption of the couple, reminding each other of the true nature of events or at one moment that they needed to move on because they only “had the stage for an hour.” It is a welcome repartee executed so convincingly as to make one feel you weren’t sitting in a theatre but rather in a pub or living room sharing a pint and a bit o’ craic.
Lucia embodies not only the lovely Jenny but seamlessly transitions between Ann’s friends, family, teachers, and even a rather judgmental administrator when they go to seek permission to have a civil union. The light-hearted, soft-touch approach taken by Gúna Nua Theatre masks a deeper message about the impact of identity and the denial of rights which so many of us take for granted, the reality of knowing your life will never be complete in the home you have known and then one day, the impossible becomes possible.
However it is the reality of the run up to the referendum which is so beautifully rendered, as Jenny works tirelessly knocking doors, rallying volunteers, coordinating the local effort to get out the vote and change the hearts and minds of Irish voters including those of Ann’s own Irish Catholic parents which carries the shows emotional weight and conflict. The narrative is fairly linear but told with such heart and humor that we as an audience and I as a third generation immigrant felt a surge of pride and heated tears welling as the Irish reinforcements came #HometoVote.
Accomplished with little more than a table, a wedding dress and a guitar, The Morning After the Life Before is a perfectly rendered, heart-warming, necessary light in the darkest of moments which will bring even the most conservative to their feet.