“Everyone is a little gay…” Ann Blake tries to reason to the audience. “Maybe I was gayer than most,” she admits as she reflects upon her feelings and actions.
The Morning After the Life Before is a two-woman show featuring Ann Blake and Lucia Smyth. Blake plays herself in the recounting of her struggles to recognize and identify herself as homosexual from the moment she meets her partner to the referendum that allowed same-sex marriage in Ireland. The play deals particularly with the trials of self-acceptance and acceptance in society in a cultural landscape that views homosexuality as choice and it believes it to be wrong. Smyth, in her turn, portrays the numerous individuals who played an important role in Blake’s life throughout this period – including the latter’s partner Jenny, mother and father, and other bureaucrats and friends who were present. The show is directed by Paul Meade and this is Blake’s first time coming to Montreal.
To give a little context to those who are unfamiliar with gender politics in Ireland, birth control was only made legal on a restricted basis in 1980 and abortion is still illegal; this is mostly due to the influence of the Catholic church in Ireland. Its not hard to imagine that this extends to the idea of same-sex marriage which was only legalized in 2015. Blake herself relays this context to the audience by saying that when she acted upon her feelings for Jenny, she “became a minority overnight”.
The play follows Blake’s overarching narrative but also has interludes where she plays a song. One of these songs identifies the parties that are not allowed into a civil partnership (and it is hilarious). The chemistry between Black and Smyth is impressive and palpable as they seem to be on the same page and are clearly enjoying themselves. Smyth often takes moments to poke fun at Blake in a friendly manner that makes it seem like they are old friends; that is not to say that Blake does not do the same towards Smyth or back herself at times. (It’s important to note that they are not in a romantic relationship as Blake seeks to clarify in the show.) Both are also insanely charming; this of course is aided by their accents, but their presentation of themselves as self-deprecating as well as Blake’s extreme vulnerability in front of the audience goes a long way towards making her extremely relatable and likeable.
The production is presented inside the small black box theatre of the Black Theatre Workshop Studio. The set of this play uses two chairs and a table with various table cloths on it to represent a scene change and a guitar in the corner to transition to singing numbers. Blake states in her performance that the show is a combination of pieces from a play she wrote; this was very surprising as the piece flows naturally all throughout and never felt like a mish-mash.
Throughout the show I would see-saw between my eyes filling with tears because of the love Blacke demonstrates for her partner and the passion she shares with the audience to laughing along with her at the absurdity of situations she encounters. You cannot help but admire her for her courage, feel empathy for her personal struggles, and hope that she will find the acceptance she seeks.
This show is an absolute cannot-miss at this year’s Fringe; considering it has been sold out and received a standing ovation during previous presentations, however, tickets may be hard to come by. (I promise my review is not biased as I did not receive any cake – it ran out before it reached me! But it is an excellent incentive to arrive early and get a front row seat. You’d be a fool not to reserve in advance to see this spectacular production.)
Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Fringe Contributor Alex Gauthier
LK presents “The Morning After the Life Before”
When: June 11 – 17, 2017
Where: Black Theatre Workshop Studio, 3680 Jeanne-Mance
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: www.montrealfringe.ca | 514.849.FEST (3378)
Official Media Partner of the 2017 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival