REVIEW: Theatre - How to Keep an Alien

Everyman, Cork

REVIEW: Theatre - How to Keep an Alien

Actor and writer, Sonya Kelly, reveals a keen sense of the comedic in her touching, funny autobiographical show about falling in love with an Australian called Kate and the ensuing madness as the duo tries to prove to the Irish immigration authorities that they are a genuine couple.

Sonya, who first meets stage manager, Kate, while acting in a play, is humorous and astute about the headiness of the initial rush of love. She describes how she pretends to like music that she hates and feels “sorry for everyone who isn’t me.”

But Kate’s work visa is about to run out which means that after a two-week romance, the women have to part.

The fling “becomes a thing” when Kate secures a job in Scotland, allowing the women to see each other at weekends. They build up a dossier, including flight receipts and personal correspondence, to show that they’re in a serious relationship.

Kelly and stage manager, Justin Murphy, are the only performers in this highly-entertaining show. Murphy is a kind of side-kick who amusingly plays an officious immigration officer and later, a more easygoing security guard who, on being handed the women’s dossier, says: “Yiz will be grand with that.” But there is no nod and wink, Irish style, to ease the path of true love. The women have to go through hoops to justify Kate’s permit to live in Ireland.

In an effort to lend some poignancy and depth to the story, the letters of Kate’s great great grandmother, Ann Flanagan, are read out. Flanagan emigrated to Australia in the 19th century and tragically, lost a child to scarlet fever on the perilous voyage.

When Kelly goes to Australia to meet her girlfriend’s family, she is overwhelmed by Kate’s numerous relatives and seeks solace out in the bush where she gets lost.

Here, in a somewhat unconvincing scenario, the voice of Flanagan tells her to cop on, find her way out of the scrub and implies that Kelly should be more tolerant. It’s the only jarring note in this otherwise delightful play.

Colette Sheridan

  • Final show tonight

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