Review| Gays Against the Free State

We started a debate, and we voted. Things are different now. We have made history. That’s what the Irish political class would have us believe. It’s a nice story, right? Everything tied up nicely in the end, like a well heeled shoe.

Gays against the Free State, took place as part of Tiger Dublin Fringe last week at Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin. Written by theatre maker Oisin McKenna, and directed by Colm Summers; McKenna and his co-performers are re-framing the story.

On May 22nd 2015, we voted for marriage equality. Ireland said yes. But does that mean everyone is now equal? This play is challenging; because the reality is that things are not different now. This is a vibrant, manic, political display. Told through various media and different cultural reference, both historic and contemporary, the ensemble examine the stories that get erased by those in power. They give a voice to those who ask for change, but who can’t always shout the loudest.

We are part of a live TV broadcast. We are primed for an important, ground-breaking debate. We just need to make sure all participants are palatable, and suitable for a mainstream audience. Preferably white, no trans people please, and no bi-sexuals; they’ll be seen as promiscuous. Just nice, normal gays.


Eavan Gaffney, jumps from neurotic TV producer, to brash red headed, ‘Middle Ireland’ who doesn’t know any lesbians; but she wouldn’t mind knowing a gay man if he had nice shoes. TV personality Miriam (Stephen Quinn), as poised and genuine as ever, moderates our panel, providing some skilled comic relief throughout.

Leonard Buckley represents the ‘could be confused for straight’ young white professional. He wears sensible grey suits. He gets up at 6am; he is ‘Middle Ireland’s’ dream gay.  As long as he doesn’t talk about his boyfriend at work. Sian Ní Mhuirí plays Roisín. Feminist campaigner, anarchist, antagonist. She represents the fearless and the hopeless, she is tired; because ‘women have always waited’.

Behind all of these characters is Oisin, an observant writer, he looks further than the stories the government has fashioned for us. What about austerity, has it gone away? He and his collaborators are curious about rooting out the stories that don’t always make the cut. They are asking us to take note of the stories that are removed from the narrative, the stories that don’t quite fit.

A play like this is asking the audience to think deeper, it is demanding, disruptive and emotionally charged. It is about S-E-X. It is more than stories about Connolly and Clarke and Ceannt. This play commands your attention and it is not always comfortable, but it is important; a vote one year ago did not erase the imbalance. There is work to be done. There are more ways of seeing, and this play is part of that work.

Cast & Crew

Written by Oisin McKenna | Directed by Colm Summers | Performed by Leonard Buckley, Eavan Gaffney, Oisín McKenna, Sian Ni Mhuiri, and Stephen Quinn | Scenic Designer Eugenia Genunchi | Costume Designer Sorcha Ní Fhloinn | Composer Séamus Ryan | Lighting Designer Tilly Taylor | Production Manager David Doyle | Stage ManagerJennifer Aust | Producer Oisin McKenna