How do people exist in towns? The repetition, the lack of entertainment all teamed with mundanity, isn’t it what one rethinks upon visiting home for holidays? John O’Donovan’s long title of a play, If I Give You More Cocaine Will You Show Me How You Love Me, returns to London at The Vaults Festival, giving the audience a glimpse into the lives of Casey (Josh Williams) and Mikey (Alan Mahon).
Running over seventy five minutes, Casey and Mikey deliver a facet of gay culture that is invisible on London stages. Mikey is terrified, in that his body language becomes frozen, whilst Casey’s hope is revealed through violent language; yet an endearing tone seeps through, juxtaposing with moments of tenderness. If I Give You More Cocaine Will You Show Me How You Love Me illustratively opens up a male existence, not only far from stereotypes, but from those with economic freedom.
In Ennis, two young men climb a rooftop having robbed a petrol station. Removing a clown mask and balaclava, moments of intrigue begin to build. Why have they robbed the petrol station? Whose house have they robbed and, impressively, how are they in possession of an ounce of coke and five hundred pounds? Donovan’s pace, in which key moments are explained, is the strongest component; he builds suspense while withholding key details for just the right moment.
Mahon’s portrayal of Mikey is superbly delivered. It’s easy for strangers to distrust the likes of Mikey, his tracksuit, language and particularly unapproachable disposition is terrifying. However it’s the tender moments with Casey that reveal his delicate way of thinking.
When accused of beating a local person his description of it being an unlucky bounce, like a game of kerbs, reveals the nature of playground behaviour. It’s the manner in which Mahon delivers the violent act with regret that sticks with a person. Contrasting the imagery of children and comas in this moment conjures life in Ennis, bringing to mind the works of Gary Owen and his depictions of Welsh life.
Mikey’s tender moments are revealed through his retelling of how his past relationship broke down. Although this prolongs unnecessarily explaining the past, his body language toward Casey reveals the latter becoming his salvation.
Casey is far from becoming his everything due to his own troubles. Who is he running away from and why is he interested in a violent partner? Upon Casey realising that Mikey’s mother has a problem with race, the fleeting disappointment only points to the reality of deeply-rooted racism, which shown in two or three seconds becomes heart breaking.
This is a bleak play with two complex characters. Donovan pushes both their boundaries by placing them into one another’s arms, whilst being threatened by all aspects of their existence. Who is coming to tear them apart? Family or state?
Thomas Martin’s directorial ability to contrast ‘manly masculinity’ with affection is superlative along with his ability to tighten the knot of terror. Each slip, each siren, each sniff, maintains the audience’s anticipation. Fast paced yet nuanced with subtle details.
The script at times has lengthy speeches which are hard to grasp, yet once you get your head around the Irish dialect it becomes that much easier. The ending is rather disappointing, as it would have been interesting to witness the opposite.
If I Give You More Cocaine Will You Show Me How You Love Me is written with a graphic sense of those forgotten by the ones making national decisions.