The Gate Theatre has began Late at The Gate series, allowing new and developing work to be presented on its stage.
Kirwan brings us three new poems, a response to The Gate’s current production, Look Back In Anger.
Kirwan gives the audience some context for his work, telling us about John Osborne’s play; about a working class man, dissatisfied with his life and lack of social mobility, but also his romanticised female characters which are inherently sexist. Osborne’s play gave rise to the term “angry young men” referring to the discontent among working class men.
Kirwan’s first poem, Kikamora’s Cry, is broad, bringing us from Limerick to Vladivostock. This poem is full of imagery and gives us mythology, from Ancient Greek to Irish, and harsh realities of Dublin today. While Kirwan’s observations are sharp, and the poem flows in a way that makes it hard not to be swept up by its motions, it misses the mark by having too many aims.
‘Mam and Dad Are Worried’, Kirwan’s second poem is the strongest and is a masterful rallying cry. Beginning with his parents’ concerns about his outspoken politicalness, describing his father and his outlook as “A 73 year old citizen of the Republic, who fears the mechanisms and the power of the state. I see that he sees not a Republic for you and me but a political class that cares only for them and theirs”, he links it to the multilayered method of oppression felt by working class people.
He explains with absolute clarity the silencing felt by working class people who can’t be openly left wing for fear of their careers, the pressure to change his accent because it doesn’t fit with a middle class ideal, and links this with the tone policing that others experience – for example women being called hysterical and shrill.
A combination of anger and cutting class analysis, this is a strong rallying cry, able to tap into the frustration of today’s “angry young men”.
Kirwan’s poetry is like rap without the music and this, like his famous piece, ‘Heartbreak’, shows the parallels of spoken word poetry today and the anti-establishment roots of culturally black music in the US.
The third of Kirwan’s poems brings closure to the “young angry men” theme. An ode to his partner, expressing his love for her and telling us that this is something much easier to do through poetry than in private conversations. He exposes his tenderness and vulnerabilities, giving us a touching finale to the energetic and salient half hour show.