Can't Forget About You at the Lyric Theatre. With an 18 certificate, a statement advising of 'scenes of a sexual nature' and half naked photos of Declan Rodgers plastered all over Facebook, it was a show I had to carefully choose a companion to go with.
David Ireland developed this script in his year as Artist in Residence at the Lyric. My top two shows since the Lyric reopened 2 years ago are 'Brendan at the Chelsea' and 'Molly Wobbly's Tit Factory', both of which opened on the Naughton Studio stage, so Can't Forget About You had a lot to live up to.
In the first few scenes my heart sank as the Troubles were referred to and the stereotypical Ulster mother appeared. I'm not a lover of 'troubles plays', but I don't think we should rewrite history either. A story which ignores our troubled society is as misguided as one which showcases it. With this play however, David Ireland shines a light on just enough of our cultural differences to provide a believable backdrop to his modern day love story.
Declan Rodgers does a fine job of portraying Stevie, a young man of Protestant upbringing who has broken up with his Catholic girlfriend much to the delight of his religious mother (Carol Moore) and bigoted Ulster-Scots loving sister (Abigail McGibbon). When Stevie finds a new female companion in Martha (Karen Dunbar), his sister is delighted as Martha's background, perceived religion and heritage seem a perfect fit. That is until she finds out what age she is...
While his God-fearing mother believes in traditional ideas such as marriage before children and staying with your husband no matter what, Stevie is concerned with more relaxed ideas. Religion is not important, after all he defines himself as Buddhist; you don't have to be in a relationship to have sex, never mind married; and being unemployed is as good a job as any. Stevie doesn't want the traditional way of doing things and his family don't want to consider more modern ideas about relationships and religious tolerance. But of course his family eventually accept Stevie's choice and he finally realises that he wants the traditional way of living after all.
This is what the play does best. Yes the script is really very funny, there is partial nudity and bad language and it's lovely to see an audience leave the theatre with huge grins on their faces, but to say that's all this play is about is to do it a disservice. The tension between traditional and more modern ways of thinking is reflective of contemporary society in NI. While one section of our community looks forward to a future of tolerance and a less judgemental society, another section looks back to our troubled past and wonders how we can ever move on.
The idea that tradition may in fact have something to offer is served up in a witty way by David Ireland, as is the idea that tradition is not everything. We are so busy fighting for what we think we believe in that maybe we need to realise that we all need a little of what the other side believes in after all. With a strong cast of fine actors, a well put together script and an enthusiastic audience, Can't Forget About You finds it's place as the highlight of the Lyric's 'Tales of The City' programme of events.
Oh and Wonder Woman makes an appearance...if that's not a reason for booking a ticket, then what is?
Can't Forget About You runs until 16th June at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. Click here to book tickets.