Theatre Review - Ulster American

Woody Harrelson in Ulster American [Johan Persson]

DAVID Ireland likes to shock. His 2018 satire Ulster American follows three characters about to collaborate on a new play. Jay (Woody Harrelson) is an Oscar-winning Hollywood actor, Leigh, an ambitious English director (Andy Serkis) and Ruth (Louisa Harland), a promising playwright from Belfast.

As the two men wait for Ruth in Leigh’s living room, Jay idly wonders if Leigh uses the “N” word.

He then asks if he believes it’s ever morally acceptable to rape someone. Leigh is shocked but wants to keep Jay on side.

When Ruth arrives, sparks fly. Initially Jay employs flattery by promising to show her work to his friend Quentin (Tarantino). However, she is dismayed by his interpretation of her script, terrible attempt at an accent and insistence that his character wears an eyepatch.

Harrelson, who hasn’t been on the London stage for almost two decades, is in fine fettle, revelling in Jay’s narcissism and clearly enjoying his “bad boy” role.

Serkis is pitch-perfect as the equally bigoted director who professes to be a feminist – cue much laughter. Harland is compelling as Ruth and quickly engages our sympathy.

Slickly directed by Jeremy Herrin, Ireland’s other targets include identity, cancel culture and theatre critics. Inevitably it gets messy and descends into violent mayhem at the end.

Until January 28

Originally published by Westminster Extra