Upon entering the Moser ‘theatre’, where The Get-Out preview took place, I was greeted by the cast sitting on the floor jovially playing drinking games, with real alcohol – somewhere between a pre-emptive after-party and method acting. The plot of The Get-Out follows much the same route: the first act sees the members of a Belfast Youth theatre group try to piece together the events of the night before while the second showcases the after-party itself. In short, alcohol is a key player in this self-examining piece.
The Get-Out is the second play to grace Oxford which has been written by Somerville’s Mary Flanigan, a third year English student from Belfast. In this piece ,Flanigan explores about a subject that closely echoes many of her own experiences: the difficulties of making art in Belfast and of getting out of the city.
The play can be seen as having two intertwined ‘get-outs’. On the one hand, George (Alexander Stutt) is a young actor with an offer to leave Belfast to study in London. The more interesting ‘get-out’, however, concerns an escape from the city herself. The Bubblerocks Belfast Youth Theatre Group, around whom the action is centred, are from the generation that did not experience the Troubles: at points in the play, they appear completely ambivalent towards the sectarian divides which once tore their country apart. Despite their apparent indifference, they find themselves forced to consider art only in terms of what it says about Northern Irish history. Flanigan appears to be asking whether Northern Ireland can finally lift herself out her history.
These themes emerge from within the veneer of a farcical after-party. Though the party itself is not as comic as one might hope, Lucy Delaney as Katie encourages laughs drunkenly offering herself to every boy in the group. The scriptwriter herself appears in the production as Áine is particularly funny too, but generally, the comedy is weak – perhaps because drunk teenagers are rarely known for their witty repartee. This disappointment is cancelled out, however, by the more serious issues explored in a play that has its roots in ideas about the city, and most of these are dealt with subtly by an excellent script.
For all its political merit, there are moments when Flanigan seems to be trying to squeeze too many ideas into one play. The actors race through issues of class with little development, and the relationship between Áine and George appears irrelevant. The cast is too large and the acts too short for individual characters to emerge fully, and George, in particular, is short-changed by the pace.
With nearly two weeks to go, the production is looking very tight. The Belfast accents are surprisingly impressive although George is at times difficult to understand. In the opinion of this Irish reviewer, it did not sound Northern Irish at all. Flanigan gives us a lot to think about in this play, and a genuine insight into the problems of art in Northern Ireland. The ideas are more interesting than the drama, but they provide reason enough to see what will be an interesting production.