Casey and Mikey are stuck on a rooftop, waiting for the cops to drive away – they’ve just robbed a petrol station and a house- Casey’s house to be precise. It is on this roof that they’ve found themselves cornered by the police. It’s not all bad though: their robbery has been somewhat successful – they’ve managed to grab a bag of cocaine and a bottle of whiskey to share between them. This is the setting of John O’Donovan’s debut play – two young men stranded on a roof in Ennis, a small, rural Irish town.
Despite the deceptively simple premise, If we got some more cocaine… is far from straightforward – through its two characters it comes to explore themes of identity and sexuality, family, poverty, small-town mentality, and much more. Yet, somehow, it never feels contrived.
Mikey and Casey are high on adrenaline and, soon, on coke; trying to find a way out of the situation they’re in. Mikey is eager to escape from the rooftop to get to the party they’re supposed to be going to – he wants to ‘show off’ Casey to his friends. Casey, however, is reluctant, almost content to stay where they are for just a little while longer.
Their respective attitudes to their sexualities is one of the main themes of the play. Mikey is out and proud and has been defending his sexuality through fist fights for years now. Casey, however, is still in the closet, afraid of his violent and homophobic stepdad, who punches him for little reason, and is likely to be even more angry if he finds out Casey is gay. It’s more complicated though: despite Mikey’s apparent pride in who he is, he can’t come to terms with changing attitudes – his ex is getting married to another man, and he can’t understand their desire to publicise their relationship, stuck in a world where he feels he needs to constantly defend his sexuality. Casey is a similar contradiction: he is afraid to be out, but, at the same time yearns for Mikey to say he loves him.
Alan Mahon and Josh Williams are fantastic as Mikey and Casey respectively. Mahon is part of the original cast, having performed in the play since its debut in 2016, whereas Williams has joined the team for the play’s run at Vault Festival. Their differing experience with the roles really doesn’t show though because they have a truly great chemistry and feed off each other naturally. There’s an awkwardness to their relationship that perfectly captures the confusion of the characters who are struggling to accept who they are to each other.
“Within the space of a single conversation, O’Donovan manages to capture the complexity of entire lives”
Williams’ Casey wears his vulnerability on his sleeve – he is so clearly young and afraid that you can’t help but feel for him. Mahon, though, takes this performance to another level entirely. On the surface, Mikey is aggressive and violent, easily picking fights; however, as the play progresses, Mahon peels back the layers of violence to reveal the tender and afraid young man hiding beneath. The vulnerability of both young men is perfectly captured in a moment where Mikey asks Casey what he sees in him. Casey struggles to convey his feelings, simply stating that what he likes is “just…you” . When questioned by Mikey, who in turn can’t bring himself to accept this unconditional affection, is convinced it must be his looks, or what he can do for Casey.
Georgia de Grey’s rooftop set is simple, but effective. Its role here is to allow the actors to own the stage. The intimate setting of The Vaults is perfect for this production and it really benefits from the proximity to the audience. Director Thomas Martin clearly has a great understanding of O’Donovan’s work and beautifully captures the intensity of the relationship between the two men. Despite the play being a single scene for one hour, it never feels tired or boring. The real star of the show, however, is undoubtedly playwright John O’Donovan. It’s hard to believe this play is his debut work and it’s beyond clear that his IARA award for best new playwright was clearly deserved. Somehow, within the space of an hour and a single conversation, he manages to capture the complexity of entire lives.
If we got some more cocaine I could show you how I love you is independent theatre at its best. The Vault Festival is the perfect place for this play and it is more than at home in a programme full of stellar productions and innovative storytelling. It’s a pity that its run at Vault is so short because this play is one that really deserves to be seen.
Where? Vault Festival When? Until 25 Feb How Much? £14.50