Theatre Review: I ♥ Alice ♥ at the Lyric Theatre


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Photo: Outburst Queer Arts Festival

Rosemary O’Dowd, Contributor

Shown as part of the Outburst Arts Festival

“Old People Don’t Smell”

Meet Alice: post office account holder, avid list-maker, cushion enthusiast, lover. And Alice: enraged driver, recycling aficionado, one-time groupie of Dusty Springfield, and other half in a long-term love story. Lovers, partners and friends, the two Alices steal a kiss in the aisles of Tesco one afternoon in Crumlin Shopping Centre. And in the soup and canned goods aisle, they disrupt the secrecy of their discreetly-led relationship forever.

Part memoir, part documentary, we are invited to listen as Alice Slattery and Alice Kinsella delve into their personal memories, dusting down the details of their lives for a theatre director who has directed them right on to the stage.  From there the play functions as a piece of documentary theatre, tracing through a map of established talking points to guide the action and the dialogue. Introducing themselves, the two Alices meander through a life-story from the routine of the quotidienne– shopping habbits, holiday preferences, and the tics that drive each other crazy, to the stuff of their lives, their beliefs, passions, histories. They talk about where they come from, and how they’ve come to find themselves here and humorously argue out the pros and cons of their very project, before the audience.

From the offset, both Alices and their love-story endear themselves to the audience. From their initial shaky nerves, as they stand on their visibly scotch-taped markers on-stage, to their passing of photographs, and even cake around the audience, I Heart Alice Heart I immerses you into an instantly recognisable world, one you find, on reflection, you know very little about. Falling in love their lives jump from black-and-white into Technicolor, says one, and this mirrors the leap both characters undertake from the ordinary aisles of a Dublin shopping centre, into the extraordinary position of self-identification. Through the course of their chartered narrative, two women are announcing themselves to the world. Through it they are rendering themselves visible.

The play is full of charming details and plays on the intimacy of the moment in which we, collectively, come to know two people we may have seen before, without ever giving much thought. As the familiar gives rise to shared laughter- the appearance of the Child of Prague, Alice’s conversations with the painting on the wall, the lawnmower given as a birthday present- the conventions of the genre, of love-story and documentary, are being extended. Glimmers of tenderness and truth lie in a place that no one thought to look.

I ♥ Alice  ♥  I is the first stage play of playwright Amy Conroy, which won the Fishamble Award for New Writing when it made its début at the Dublin Fringe Festival. The play has since transferred to the Peacock stage of the Abbey Theatre and travelled to play across the world, in New York, Croatia, Australia, among other locations since 2011. It plays at the Lyric as part of the Outburst Arts Festival 2015.

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