Fringe play puts relationships centre stage

Are single people just waiting for love to find them, or are they happy to enjoy the freedom, asks Colette Sheridan

Fringe play puts relationships centre stage

ARE singletons happy to be without a significant other, or are they desperately looking for a partner? These are just some of the questions explored in ‘Singlehood,’ a documentary-style theatre show that opens at Dublin’s Project Arts Centre on Sept 17-22 as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival. This provocative show, exploring the single life, is directed by Una McKevitt in collaboration with TV writer, David Coffey (Dan & Becs, Fade Street).

Described as “a brutally honest yet heart-warming show about the roller coaster ride of singlehood,” McKevitt has interviewed 50 singletons whose experiences will be related by ten performers, five men and five women. The performers also talk about their own relationship status in the show.

“In conceiving the show, I considered what it means to be single in a society where romantic relationships have such high status and defined rituals,” says McKevitt. “Are single people just waiting for love to find them, or does being single offer its own, possibly richer rewards?”

McKevitt, 37, a lesbian, says she has been in a lot of relationships over the years. “For a long period of time I had never really been single at all. Coming out of my last relationship, I knew I needed to be on own for a while and properly commit to it rather than just running into a new relationship. So that prompted me to start thinking about being single.”

While McKevitt never had any problem meeting partners, she says she knows a lot of straight women in their 30s and 40s who really want to meet someone but can’t. “These women are beautiful, clever and talented. I think they’re actually being very fussy.”

Now single for a year, McKevitt says she is enjoying life. “I feel more empowered now. The single experience is all about being comfortable in your own skin.” She says that everyone she spoke to for the show mentioned the necessity of compromising and losing a certain amount of freedom in relationships.

But Conor Behan, 25, a gay DJ, who performs in the show, knows nothing about relinquishing his freedom as he has never been in a relationship. “It just hasn’t happened. I’d love to experience a relationship because I’d say it’s really great but at the same time I don’t want to obsess over it. It will happen or it won’t happen but it’s not ruling my life.”

Behan says that “being single is something to be celebrated just like being in a relationship should be celebrated. You need to know yourself fully to give yourself to somebody else. You need to be happy with who you are.”

Originally from Carlow, Behan says he loves going to “gay spaces and gay bars. But I don’t just go to gay places. Gay people of my age and younger gravitate towards mixed spaces. That probably wouldn’t have happened five or ten years ago. It’s quite vibrant and healthy.”

Another performer in the show is actor Dee Roycroft, 40, a straight single mother of a seven-year-old boy. She says she would never close the door on the possibility of a relationship. “But I’m not seeking to meet someone. Is that a choice? To me, it just feels like the way things are.”

Roycroft was in “a very long relationship for all of my 20s and into my 30s. I was married for the last few years of it. I guess I was incredibly lucky because it sort of came to an end quite naturally. It was spent. And we both knew it so, while of course it was sad, it felt right to separate.”

Asked if she feels free to ask men out, Croft says she would “have to feel pretty sure I wouldn’t get shot down. I’ve only done it a couple of times. It’s good to take a risk. I never regretted it.”

Being a single mother has never been an issue when it comes to Dee’s romantic life. “I wouldn’t be interested in the first place in someone who wasn’t up for that aspect of my life. Being a mother is such an important part of me. Also, my son is so close to his dad that there’s nothing to be taken on. I have never felt (being a single mother) at a disadvantage.”

In the show, comedian Eric Lalor, 41, talks about having been engaged for 15 years during which he and his fiancé’s four children were born. The couple married in 2009. Marriage didn’t seem important. Lalor says regardless of whether or not he has a piece paper stating that he’s married, he is in the relationship “for the long haul.”

Fascinated by the revelations in the show, he says it reminds him of when he was young and single.

“I had thoughts that I thought nobody else had. It’s refreshing to see that I wasn’t alone in my insanity when I was 19 or 20. I hadn’t had a long relationship at that stage and I used to wonder if I was a freak. I was genuinely concerned that I’d be left on the shelf and would never marry.”

Lalor met his life partner in the workplace where they both operated forklifts.

“We were friends for years. It was only when she told me she was leaving the job that I made my play for her with the help of alcohol.

“Thankfully, she reciprocated, and the rest is history.”

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