The Words Are There at the Hope Theatre | Review

Who would believe Mick (Ronan Dempsey) even if he was able to properly articulate his story? A phone call to The Samaritans seems a step in the right direction for someone who doesn’t appear to have a circle of close-knit friends to confide in. This play is mostly in the realms of physical theatre, and while it wouldn’t be fair to describe it as ‘non-verbal’ (there is plenty of conversation in the show), Mick is not always able to string a complete sentence together. Other times, the conversation flows. His girlfriend, Trish, never becomes his fiancée, mostly because she loses her patience with him as he tries to ask for her hand in marriage.

The Words Are There at the Hope Theatre

There’s just about enough backstory with Trish, who is mostly represented in the form of a DIY lifesize doll, comprised of various household items and a copious amount of ‘caution’ tape (literally, tape with ‘caution’ writ large). It’s up to the audience to determine if they think this is a stylistic and artistic choice, as though Trish is someone to be handled with care, or if that’s just what Mick happened to have available. There are bursts of frenetic activity, making Dempsey’s performance somewhat exhausting to watch – sometimes Mick is panicked, though there was one scene in which he took Trish clubbing. In such a crowded environment, there is inevitably going to be some inadvertent brushing up against other people. Perhaps under the influence of alcohol, Trish misreads what happens to Mick: let’s just say she wasn’t exactly over the moon.

Quite how their relationship got to this point lies at least in part in both Mick and Trish’s upbringings – she was in a household that had domestic violence and sexual abuse, he had a stern father who told him plainly to grow a pair and get on with life rather than ever talk through his emotions. Hurt people hurt people, so it is said, and sadly this proves to be the case here, with neither party having successfully dealt with their inner demons. It wasn’t clear to me whether this would be a tragedy or a triumph over adversity story (and yes, it would be saying too much to say which it turned out to be).

Interestingly, at least one of Trish’s physical attacks on Mick takes place in public, though nobody comes to his aid. With just the one actor on stage, it’s difficult to ascertain for certain why this was (if I must get off the fence, I would wager others didn’t want to get involved, simple as that). The portrayal of a woman as the perpetrator of abusive behaviour in a straight relationship is hardly unprecedented but it is nonetheless just as harrowing as when the woman is the victim. But as I started by saying, who would believe Mick if he spoke out? In this regard, literally not being able to speak at times is almost neither here nor there.

The audience gets to know both characters well, despite stunted dialogue (much of it is in the form of voiceovers). There are no neat and tidy solutions to a messy and complex set of problems. The show avoids, despite several opportunities by way of socio-economic circumstances, getting political, making this a deeply personal story. Some of the background music was a bit distracting to me but otherwise, this is a very creative and captivating production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Mick awaits Trish in his seaside bedsit in dreamy Bettystown, Ireland. They’ve agreed to start over again, so it’s party time! Will it be bubbles for a happy ever after or will sparks fly? Life has left Mick speechless, but in his silence lies a story. Amidst childhood falsehoods, Mick sifts through fragmented memories as he struggles to find the words for a very important day.

14 – 25 NOV 2023

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