Review: There’s Only Alice at DramSoc Theatre
By Heather Reynolds | Oct 19 2018There's Only Alice ran at UCD DramSoc theatre from the 15th to the 19th of October to mixed success. As Shanahan's second time directing for DramSoc, the majority of the show ran cleanly and not without some skill; most slip-ups and missed cues could be easily-attributed to first performance jitters.
Hanley in particular was honestly the highlight of the show, a highly-emotive performance that commanded both attention and sympathy.There was no fault to be found with the acting. Hugo O’ Regan’s Robert and Ciara Hanley’s Alice switched consummately from the easy flirting of the night before to the quiet awkwardness of the morning after. Hanley in particular was honestly the highlight of the show, a highly-emotive performance that commanded both attention and sympathy. Every move she made felt incredibly authentic to the character and it heightened the tension of the scenes to a point where the audience feels genuine fear for what might happen to her. Elsa Joyce and Oisin O’ Donoghue, who are no less prevalent in the show as Alice’s visions of her parents, bring an added intensity that elevates the performance to the point where you almost forget that it's a show about women's sexual shame written by a man.As a production, there is little fault to be found at a surface level. The staging was good, Amy Dunnes’ skilled use of lighting added volumes to the emotion of the piece, and the overall script itself was not inherently bad. The transitions were slightly jumpy, and there was little organic flow from one scene to the next. Despite this, the emotion of the scenes came across strongly throughout the show. The discomfort of the morning after scene is palpable, mainly due to the delivery, but it is also where the main issues begin. The topic of conversation quickly switches to and focuses on sex, specifically Alice’s sexual shame, as a sexually-active woman who was raised by fanatical religious parents. She only has anal sex, as it does not count as sex in the eyes of God, and therefore is not a sin. Setting aside the church’s stance on sodomy, this is an odd choice of dialogue for these characters. It contrasts directly with the genuine seeming awkwardness of the scene, as this is clearly not how people talk after a one night stand. The play, from this stage onwards, fixates on Alice’s sexual shame and the distress it causes her. Hanley does amazing work with the script, however there is a lot of problematic undertones to be found in what she has been given to work with. This piece, hyper-focused on a woman’s sexuality, was written by a man with very little content that negates the negative and slut-shaming dialogue the piece contains. It is seemingly assumed that the audience will know that this perception of Alice and her actions are incorrect, however it does not actually give any textual evidence to that effect. Robert, who is given the role of a neutral observer, only reflects on her schizophrenia. The neutral party in a piece on sexual shame does not come down against the immense amount of misogynistic and sex-negative content the piece contains. Due to this, the piece feels incredibly exploitative to watch and uncomfortable for what one must assume are unintended reasons.
It does not seek to question or challenge notions of female sexuality and sexual agency, only draw unearned drama and tension from their acknowledged existenceThere’s Only Alice is a piece about the immense shame a young abuse survivor faces due to her own autonomy. It had the potential to be a great play. However, as the work is coming from the perspective of a cisgender man, it simply ends up adding to the multitude of similar sexploitation pieces of the past forty years. It does not seek to question or challenge notions of female sexuality and sexual agency, only draw unearned drama and tension from their acknowledged existence, and due to this, despite a skilled cast and crew, it was a thoroughly un-enjoyable experience for the latter half of the production.