I HEART ALICE HEART I
07/03/2013 - 10/03/2013
Auckland Arts Festival 2013 invites audiences to open their hearts and prepare themselves for a most unexpected love story with I Heart Alice Heart I, a tender documentary-style play opening at Q Theatre on 7 March. Performing their award-winning work for the first time in New Zealand is bold new Irish theatre company, HotForTheatre.
The story follows Alice Kinsella and Alice Slattery, two gentle and retiring Irish sexagenarians who stole a kiss in the condiments aisle of a local supermarket, got spotted by a theatre director and were coaxed into sharing their heart–warming love story with a live theatre audience. Over cups of tea and slices of pound cake, the modest couple describe their life dramas – chance meetings, infidelity, battles with cancer, overseas trips. The result is a charming, intimate piece of theatre, hailed by the New York Times as a “captivating and intimate pseudo-documentary.”
Written and directed by Amy Conroy, this fresh and funny play is performed by Amy Conroy and Clare Barrett. Amy is a writer, performer and Artistic Director of HotForTheatre. In 2010, she won the Fishamble Award for New Writing when I Heart Alice Heart I premiered at the Dublin Fringe Festival (Ireland).
Her second HotForTheatre show Eternal Rising of the Sun saw her win the Best Female Performer Award at the Dublin Fringe Festival 2011, with her performance also earning her a nomination for Best Actress in the Irish Times Theatre Awards 2011. Amy has worked primarily as an actor and has previously appeared in numerous works with Barabbas Theatre Company.
Actor Clare Barrett won the Best Female Performance Award for her role in I Heart Alice Heart I, also at the ABSOLUT Fringe 2010. Her theatre credits include The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead, and Swampoodle, Slattery’s Sago Saga and Power Point, which won her a nomination for Best Female Performer at the 2009 ABSOLUT Fringe Ireland. Film and television work includes Roy, The Last Furlong, Singlehanded, Fair City and Fallout.
HotForTheatre was formed in 2010 on the premise that theatre should provoke, move and delight in equal measures. I Heart Alice Heart I was their first show, and following its Dublin premiere has had seasons in Ireland, New York, Iceland and Scotland.
Two quiet, understated, very fine performances – Irish Theatre Magazine
Humorous, affecting and quietly empowering work – New York Times
Show I Heart Alice Heart I
Where Loft, Q Theatre
When Thu 7, Fri 8 and Mon 11 Mar at 8pm; Sat 9 and Sun 10 Mar at 5pm
Duration 1hr no interval
Price GA $58 / Friend/Conc/Group $53
Bookings qtheatre.co.nz / 09 309 9771
THE EDGE: buytickets.co.nz / 09 357 3355 or 0800 289 842
Post-show talk on Fri 8 Mar
Social Media Facebook: facebook.com/Aklfestival
Twitter: @Aklfestival @HotforTheatre
Performed by Amy Conroy and Clare Barrett
Writer and Director: Amy Conroy
Developed with: Clare Barrett
Set and Lighting Designer: John Crudden
Sound Designer: Jack Cawley
Producer: Jen Coppinger
With support from Culture Ireland
Deliciously funny, sublime and political journey – with cake
Review by Lexie Matheson 08th Mar 2013
It usually happens in the middle of the rehearsal period for an Ibsen, a Chekhov, a Miller or a Tennessee Williams that someone will ask ‘why are there no plays about happy relationships?’ My answer has been, for three decades now, because happiness doesn’t make good theatre.
I must say it’s great to be proved wrong. In the case of I Heart Alice Heart I, totally wrong.
I Heart Alice Heart I is exclusively about the happiest of relationships and the audience ate up every word, every nuance and every last piece of cake. Happy relationships always, as you know, have cake.
As the title suggests both characters are named Alice, they are in love with each other and their lives together. They are bothsexagenarians – that’s sixty years old or over for those who haven’t made it yet – and it’s an issue. Not a biggie but it is an issue, especially for Alice Kinsella (Amy Conroy) who is the elder Alice by a couple of years. Alice Slattery nee Connolly (Claire Barrett) loves to tease her partner about the age difference and, yes, it’s that type of relationship. It’s gentle, ironic, as jolly as a cosy cardy and a brilliant night out.
The work has, at its centre, a pseudo-documentary format that starts with the two Alices caught stealing in the jams and spreads aisle of the local supermarket. They were seen by a theatre director who, over a protracted period of time, enticed the women into sharing their story with a wider audience.
What they stole was a kiss.
What follows is a delicious journey through both of their lives: the ups and downs, the tragedies, the heartaches, the joys, the laundry, the holidays, the affair, the heart-stopping illness – but above all else the simple love they feel for, and share with, each other.
You really need to experience I Heart Alice Heart I to truly understand the magnitude of Amy Conroy’s extraordinary achievement. She wrote, directed and acts in the production and it’s an enormously subtle and deeply affecting work. The play won the ‘Fishamble New Writing Award’ for the best new play premiered at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2010 and Conroy went on to participate in the 2011 Abbey Theatre New Playwright’s Programme. She clearly earned it!
Not that the success of the work is totally down to Conroy. Her partner in crime, co creator and fellow actor Claire Barrett, is an absolute delight. She’s funny, engaging, twitchy, quietly impassioned and has the most wonderful way of playing outside the text. I truly believe this is an older gay couple sharing their lives and completely encompassing us with the trivial detritus of their lives. They’re not, of course; they’re a couple of very smart young Irish actors who really know how to do the business.
The characters have known each other since childhood but their paths split when Alice K went off to London to eventually work at The Times and Alice S, who was then Alice C, got married to Liam S, the loveliest man I’ve never met. Alice K has adventures with girls, especially Louise with whom she had a relationship, and Jen with whom she also had a relationship, and Jen’s boyfriend who seemed to end up in bed with almost everyone. What ensues is some of the best, and most delicate, comedic playing I’ve experienced in yonks.
It is rumoured, mainly by Alice K herself, that she once kissed Dusty Springfield at a party, but Alice S, who wasn’t there, refutes this. Comic opportunities like this are gems and the women make the most of every one of them with nudgy looks, sly exchanges and the crafty connections that underpin all long term relationships.
The story around Liam’s death and the reconnecting of the women is very moving, and when Alice S has a friend who asks “are you gay now?”, the play moves into much deeper waters and more complex questions begin to be asked.
The work is full of treats – including shared cream sponge – and I’d be remiss if I exposed them all here as my hope is that you’ll take the time to see this Auckland Arts Festival production. But I’d also be negligent if I didn’t amplify for you the fact that this isn’t just a funny play about two older ladies who happen to be lesbians and their idiosyncratic life; nor is it simply two sublimely talented actors delving deep into their superbly honed craft.
I Heart Alice Heart I is much more than that.
At its heart the play is political, too. It’s about having a place and standing tall, something the women did via their first gay pride parade where they held hands in public for the first time. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s a powerful political act if you’re lesbian and you’ve never done it before. It’s about a different form of coming out, a powerful way of saying – as the women do – ‘I don’t want to hide any more’.
In 1998 I went to my first pride parade here in Auckland. It was called Hero in those days and as I watched the groups of happy people marching I decided I didn’t want to hide anymore either. It was perhaps the most profound moment of my life and these two wonderful actors brought all that flooding back. It’s empowering theatre replete with cake and memories. The full house acknowledged this with an opening night standing ovation and this made me very happy – for them and for me. So much so that I completely forgot where I’d parked my car.
A large group of exquisitely well-behaved and school-uniformed young women attended the performance and the odds are that at least a couple of them would have engaged with the production in a very special way. I hope the subtle, charm-rich messages helped anyone struggling with their sexuality to find the inner strength to be themselves in a world that can still be a bit of a bitch for many LGBTI people.
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