Home » London Theatre Reviews » Yokes Night – Gerry’s On Stage Theatre Royal Stratford East | Review

Yokes Night – Gerry’s On Stage Theatre Royal Stratford East | Review

Yokes NightThis is, as they sing in the musical Hamilton, the story of tonight. But it would be difficult to understand Harry (Scott Lyons) and Saoirse (Niamh Finlay) without some background information, so although the focus is on this night, 11th March 2015, the audience is also treated (or subjected) to details about previous nights out with friends and acquaintances. I’ve no idea whether what happens to this duo – who don’t appear to know each other before ‘Yokes Night’ – has any basis in fact; there is no indication in the show’s programme that the narrative is in any way based on an actual story, so I presume not. But the event that makes this date so memorable really happened.

The Dàil Éireann (literally, ‘Assembly of Ireland’) sat on the evening of Tuesday 10th March to pass emergency legislation after the Irish Court of Appeal ruled in favour of a challenge to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. That piece of legislation was deemed unconstitutional, so many banned substances were, effectively, not illegal. The new legislation had to be passed by the lower house, then ratified by the Seanad Éireann (Senate of Ireland) and signed into law by the President of Ireland, a process that couldn’t be done in one evening session. Thus, until 12 midnight on Thursday 12th March, there was a bit of a free for all, though certain substances such as heroin and cocaine were banned under separate laws and remained illegal throughout.

There’s a bit of dramatic and creative licence deployed here, where dawn is used as the cut-off point by which the briefly legal is illegal once more, rather than the Cinderella-esque midnight. We’re also not told which drugs are permitted on this one night, and one could be forgiven for thinking it was possible to consume whatever substance one wanted with complete abandon. Now, from time to time there is press coverage about the potential dangers of taking banned substances, usually (but by no means always) after someone ends up in hospital because they have overdosed and suffered a severe reaction requiring expert medical treatment.

Neither character ends up in that state, though the production nonetheless does a good job of portraying what it would be like to take recreational drugs – the lighting and loud music of the nightclub surroundings heighten the person’s sensations even more. Rightly or wrongly, the play does nothing to make me want to consider a night out like theirs even if a legal loophole were to occur in the future: there are, frankly, too many dodgy characters encountered, and without giving it all away, let’s just say the charm of the Irish does not extend to all who would call themselves Irish.

There were one or two moments when it was difficult to maintain interest. Early on, a voiceover starts asking so many questions about a wide variety of subjects that it was impossible to keep up or attempt to reflect on any given topic being raised. But, overall, with little set aside from some square blocks peppered around the performance space, and only a few props, the scene changes are as slick as they could be. The eye contact with the audience is delightful, establishing and keeping up an excellent rapport.

Some physical theatre is mingled in, too, and there is palpable on-stage chemistry between the pair, who, despite all the ‘yokes’ – Irish slang, apparently, for ‘pills’ – discuss some pertinent issues about, for instance, a crime against the person and its impact on the victim, and, topically for an issue on which a referendum is to be held in May 2018, strict abortion laws in Ireland. There are moments of comic relief as well, and there’s a lot to consider in this busy play that packs more content into one act than certain other plays cover in two. An interesting and frenetic production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Dublin, March 11th 2015. A slip-up loophole in the law leaves 24 hours where all yer yokes, yer cokes, yer yips n pips are legal to possess. On this night of rebellion, Harry finds himself under the influence of Saoirse. Bound by the ecstasy of their union, Harry and Saoirse choke on a blow-out misadventure of hedonistic anarchy.

Inspired by true events, Yokes Night is a revolt against the authorities that have castrated Ireland.

Stay Up Late Collective come to Gerry’s Studio with the revamped, reboot of critically acclaimed Yokes Night, opening a discussion on the impact of the current Abortion Laws and the struggles of the young, broke and bored in modern day Dublin.

Venue: Gerry’s
Time: 7.30pm
Price: £12 (£10 concession)
Runtime: 70 mins (no interval)
Age Guidance: 16+ (themes of drugs and abortion)


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