Patrick Byrnes in 'One' by Michael Scott at Project Arts Centre.

Patrick Byrnes in 'One' by Michael Scott at Project Arts Centre.

Michael Scott’s latest work makes for one lovesick evening of poesy. The first of a trilogy of plays, One introduces us to the deadbeat, despondent victim of lost love (Byrnes), who exhibits all the symptoms of inconsolable heartbreak, from his vacant stare to his un-ironed shirt.

Scott’s exploratory study of the complex subject of love opens with a delicate and child-like performance of ‘Simon Says’ between Byrnes and an anonymous voice-over, a game often used as an alternative means of expression during bereavement counselling, the play’s programme explains. Before such a potentially theatrical and expressive activity is fully developed, however, Byrnes has assumed an emergency crash position on the side of the couch centre-stage in preparation for a dreadful descent: “We are going down,” he warns, and we do.

Inspired by Canadian-born Elizabeth Smart’s novel By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, the play adopts a decidedly static and meditative tone that bears the sense of an open-mic poetry night, rather than a dramatic manifestation of the topic in hand. The lovelorn and angst-ridden Byrnes wanders aimlessly about the Ikea-like livingroom space, in some kind of semi-state of existence between dream and reality, while he indulges in streams of extravagant speeches about the man he once loved. In his attempt to contend with a badly broken heart, Byrnes’ method is self-torturing by nature of his excessive and obsessive reminiscing about moments shared with his lover. The effect is a man who is a prisoner of his own languishing mind, and, for the duration of the play at least, we are prisoners too: going nowhere, slowly.

Several monologue ‘aids’ appear to motivate Byrnes’ movements on stage; from the couch, where he picks up his lines from a foolscap pad, to the menu card on the small round table from which he reads openly. In a monologue that is verging on the verbose, it is no surprise that the flat-screen Samsung TV positioned behind the couch serves merely to display the words (some of which were photo-shopped with flames for dramatic effect) from which Byrnes reads, with his back to us, towards the end. There was hope until then that the screen would project something (anything) more. The microphone positioned at the side of the stage had a more useful function nonetheless, with Byrnes’ rendition of an intimate moment between him and his lover amplified through it in breathy and repetitive tones. Moments like this offer only transitory momentum throughout the hour-long play, and are in need of some development and reprise.

Although the wide spectrum of emotions associated with love and heartbreak are aptly observed in the play, their overly lyrical treatment makes for a somewhat monochromatic dramatic production. Laden with a few too many mawkish metaphors, the play’s more tender moments – Byrnes’ memory of his lover’s sideways smile, and the affectionate inscriptions he made in the sand – are sadly overcooked in their delivery. Other moments, however, such as the brief description of a journey on an express train and the beginnings of a memory-scene in a cafe, are welcome interjections in an otherwise sluggish succession of non-events.

The intermittent phone calls Byrnes receives throughout the play are of questionable significance. At first they bear the possibility of contrast, achieved by the more casual everyday speech, or perhaps even the possibility of a subplot. The actual nature of the calls, however, as well as the callers’ identities, remains unclear, and lines like “What will I wear to please you?” and “Distance is no object,” leaves one questioning what is being said on the other end, by whom and why.

Scott’s lighting assists in dividing the piece into its successive moods, and while the sound-effects underscore the more pivotal references to words like ‘loneliness,’ Byrnes’ succeeding lines are lost in parts due to a resulting imbalance of volume.

cJennifer Lee holds an MPhil in Theatre and Performance from Trinity College and is currently completing her PhD thesis at DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama.

  • Review
  • Theatre

One by Michael Scott

9-14 May, 2011

Produced by International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival
In Project Arts Centre

Written and directed by Michael Scott

Edited by Jamie O’Connell

Sound and Lighting: Michael Scott

With: Patrick Byrnes

Presented as part of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival 2011.