A Shiny Life For Me!

a personal review blog by Bianca

Ulster American

Ulster American
09 December 2023
Riverside Studios
5.0 out of 5.0 stars

This show really surprised me. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I definitely wasn’t expecting this!

Ulster American sees a Northern Irish playwrite, an English director, and an American actor united in one room, discussing the script the night before rehearsals for this new play are scheduled to start. But as the night wears on, it becomes clear that they have very different ideas and opinions and things threaten to spiral out of control.

With a stellar cast of Woody Harrelson, Andy Serkis and Louisa Harland, it’s a stunning show that holds many surprises along the way.

Putting on a play about the Troubles will always draw split opinions, but in this pitch-black comedy, it becomes a red-hot debate about cultural identity, power dynamics, and patriarchal social structures. As the characters lose their tempers bit by bit, the tensions rise but so do the laughs. Ulster American is a superbly funny drama that hugely benefits from Serkis’ spectrum of intense emotional displays as an actor, while the somewhat detached and conceited portrayal of an Oscar-winning, self-absorbed actor by Harrelson is a perfect counterpart. Harland completes the trio with her compellingly honest Ruth Davenport, the playwright trying to stop the director and actor from trying to completely change her work. The three entirely different characters struggle to make themselves heard while trying to keep the others involved and interested in the project ahead of them.

The production is staged as a run-through performance of an hour an a half, which suits it perfectly as an interval would have definitely taken the audience out of the ever-escalating action of the play. Full of surprises and laughs, Ulster American is a deeply uncomfortable play that manages to keep the audience engaged, entertained, and tense. The darkest of dark comedies that nonetheless manages to make points about today’s society without soapbox monologues, but through conversations between opposing forces casually dismissing each other’s points. Absolutely brilliant, hilarious, and deeply disturbing!

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