28 May 2024

By Hannah Wilcox

Hollywood comes to the Ensemble Theatre in David Ireland’s savage satire Ulster American.

Directed by Shane Anthony, the play was originally produced by Outhouse Theatre Co at the Seymour Centre in 2021, debuting in Kirribilli on May 17.

Harriet Gordon-Anderson takes the stage as young playwright Ruth, Brian Meegan as ambitious theatre director Leigh and Oscar-winning actor Jay is played by Jeremy Waters.

First and foremost, the trio’s chemistry is outstanding. Each one embodied their respective roles holistically to navigate touchy social issues and political ‘correctness’ with wit and finesse. 

The show begins with the introduction of the boisterous and egotistical Jay who is set to star in a gritty historical drama about the Irish revolution.

Ruth turns up to the London studio after a hectic morning flight ready to get things in motion.

Things quickly take a tense turn as the duo realise they may not be as compatible as first thought, with Leigh’s attempts to salvage the show falling short.

Music, sound and set interaction were all done extremely well and made a significant impact on audience engagement.

Ireland’s dramatic plot twist at the end was not only unexpected, but a fantastically dramatic conclusion to the 75 minutes of chaos.

An engaging, raw – and slightly uncomfortable at times – comedy, Ulster American rightfully received a standing ovation.

The Sun notes that the show’s age recommendation for 16+ years is appropriate due to the complexity of the issues and content explored. 

Anthony shared in the Director’s note: “The play examines the world we find ourselves in post #MeToo and the behaviours that continue to flourish, despite the heavily filtered facade of the men who have been challenged and are now coming to terms with their inherited prejudice and positions of power.”

“It questions our righteousness and our grandstanding, and our desperate need to be seen on the right side of history.”

“Ireland’s latest play is not just about systemic misogyny or cultural imperialism,” he added.

“It’s about Hollywood colonialism, and how we invest power and perpetuate this deeply flawed cultural machine.”

Ulster American is showing at the Ensemble until June 8.