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March 16, 2021


#ReadingIrelandMonth21 Ulster American

by NancyElin



  1. This is a one Act  single setting  “pressure-cooker ” play.
  2. Ulster American is set in an apartment where an
  3. Oscar-winning actor, an ambitious English director (both male)
  4. …and a female Northern Irish playwright meet to discuss a play.
  5. A bloodbath ensues from a Hollywood actor’s
  6. attempt to turn a Protestant playwright’s script
  7. …into a celebration of the IRA.
  8. Ulster American is a challenging satire that
  9. …exposes the hypocrisies and ritual abuses of those in power.


  1. How would I describe Ulster American in just four words?
  2. Political. Provocative. Bloody. Brutal.
  3. It is a queasy-making power-play drama.
  4. No plot, text filled with sound-bite clichés.
  5. Characters have zero depth.
  6. No twist, no story only crass shock and conflict.
  7. Not a single thing to cherish in this play.
  8. #WasteOfReadingTime



3 characters: 

  1. Jay Conway – male, 40s American actor
  2. Leigh Carver – male, 40s English director
  3. Ruth Davenport – female, 30s Northern Irish playwright



  1. London, Leigh’s living room  (Sunday Evening)
  2. on the eve of rehearsals for a West End play.
  3. Jay and Leigh discuss several subjects.


  1. Staccato” dialogue  (between Jay and Leigh Act 1…until Ruth enters)
  2. is where you speak in fragments of short sentences and
  3. is how people truly talk and communicate.
  4. Jay and Leigh jump from one subject to another
  5. racism?  women? nationality? religion?  UK monarchy? feminism? rape?
  6. By reading the stage directions you can feel the tension between the two men.
  7. They prowl the stage….in macho madness.


Enter Ruth (38%)

  1. Introductions all around.


Exit Leigh (41%)

  1. Now Ruth and Jay talk  Hollywood trivia ( Jack Lemmon, Quentin Tarantino,
  2. …Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan,  favorite movie?
  3. …again  “staccato dialogue”…a bit boring, to be honest.
  4. This type of conversation is a quick read but reveals little about the characters.


Enter Leigh..with glass of wine (43%)

  1. Conversation continues.


Exit Jay (46%)

  1. They discuss  Jay the crass, petulant American Oscar-winning
  2. actor of Irish Catholic descent.
  3. As David Ireland writes: “…sounding like a “Belfast Dick Van Dyke”.
  4. Ruth is determined to “…protect my f***ing play!”


Enter Jay (50%)

  1. He just talked to his AA sponsor on the telephone. (character info)


Exit Leigh (52%)

  1. Jay and Ruth start analyzing the play.


Enter Leigh…with more drinks (53%)

  1. Leigh and Ruth start the production process of a ‘run-through with Jay.
  2. They try to explain what Northern Ireland Irish sounds like
  3. why Brexit  is or is not relevant…and what is Ulster unionism?
  4. First monologue: (59%)
  5. Ruth focuses her attention on “The Troubles”.
  6. Again…Ruth defends her play: “I’m not rewriting anything!”
  7. …no eye-patch, Irish dancing or pigs!
  8. Second monologue: (71%)
  9. Jay displays his Oscar Academy Award to boost his
  10. …influence about making changes in the play.
  11. Third (very long) monologue (74%)
  12. Leigh tries to find some common ground between Ruth and Jay….
  13.’s not easy!


Exit Ruth (80%)

  1. Leigh try to be the peacemaker
  2. between volatile Jay and stubborn Ruth.


Enter Ruth …with her phone (81%)

  1. Sign of the times….Ruth threatens Jay with a “blackmail tweet”!
  2. Ruth plays hard-ball!
  3. Agree to her terms….then she won’t send the tweet!


Turning point in the play (85%)

  1. Ruth answers her phone
  2. ….she is lost in her thoughts.


Exit Ruth  into the bathroom

Enter Ruth…after a few minutes

  1. Now the tables have turned.
  2. Leigh and Ruth have a serious discussion.


Climax (94%)

Fight. Blood. Attack. Tweet sent

…the curtain falls.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 16 2021

    David Ireland’s work is hard to like sometimes. I found Cyprus Avenue to be incredibly powerful and shocking, but this one not so much.

    • Mar 16 2021

      I have to way to compare this play with Cyprus Avenue…I’ll take your word on it.
      I prefer Brian Friel anyday!
      As Dorthy Parker said when she was theatre critic for Vanity Fair:
      “The House Beautiful….is the play lousy”


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