Ulster American

RSAT Ulster American Steve Bastoni, Sarah Sutherland & David Whiteley - photo by Teresa NobleUlster American begins harmless enough, a classic story of boys meet girl, but then girl and boys eventually realise there’s been a terrible misunderstanding and it all goes to hell.

It might be coincidence that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has been playing across the road at the Astor, but surely not to hear Quentin Tarantino soundtracks playing in the Red Stitch foyer?

Sure, the text mentions him directly, but there’s also the similarities in story structure – conversations that veer between the hilariously droll and the hilariously outrageous, culminating in delirious violence – that are certainly present, and presented very well here by Director Brett Cousins and his cast.

Steve Bastoni played the American actor, Jay, distilled down to his arrogant essence. Steve had the particularly horrible, but utterly necessary task, of delivering a sequence of rape ‘jokes’ for anything other than laughs (and succeeded thankfully, the few guffaws from the audience felt more borne out of shock than misplaced direction), keeping the subject of the humour these men as they slowly reveal how awful they are.

There’s few things as excruciating as a man shooshing a woman to explain how much of a feminist he is, and it’s something David Whiteley does in great fashion as the English director, Leigh. There’s almost delight in how David gives us a man who appears mild at first, yet whose narcissism and misogyny slowly come to the surface.

Sarah Sutherland had a brilliant turn as the Irish playwright, Ruth. Like Jay and Leigh, Ruth also pursues success, indeed she’s giddy at the thought one of her scripts might have got into the hands of Quentin Tarantino, but she’s also protective of her words.

And when those words come under threat, Ruth will do anything to protect them. Ruth is driven and righteous and from her first moments on stage until the last ones, catching her breath, was a wonderfully realised character by Sarah.

Politics, be they international or sexual, often involve high emotions. To see how Ulster American explores that contentious space before trying to put out that fire with a gasoline of an ending made for a terrific night at the theatre.

Ulster American
Red Stitch Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel Street, St Kilda East
Performance: Sunday 25 August 2019 – 6.30pm
Season continues to 19 September 2019
Information and Bookings: www.redstitch.net

Image: Steve Bastoni, Sarah Sutherland and David Whiteley star in Ulster American – photo by Teresa Noble

Review: David Collins