Rebecca Lyon’s rendition of Martin McNamara’s I.E.D. contains a shining performance and pockets of superb writing, but overall falls into the very clichéd and gendered traps it is trying to throw off.
“‘AAC’. Avoid all clichés” states Agnes (Safron Beck) to Ian Maginnis (Jordan Fyffe) as she prepares him for the day’s outing; breaking the hardest news that can be broken to the family of a soldier serving in Afghanistan. Whilst the plot follows an interesting storyline; a desensitized female army notification officer joined by a younger, emotional, male private on their days outing to tell the family of a fallen soldier about his death, it’s not a plot that is void of clichés. Safron Beck’s unfeeling Agnes, who is trying to do her job with utmost efficiency in a male dominated industry, lacks the depth necessary to balance the character’s ‘hard-as-nails’ front with the inner vulnerability that would truly connect the audience with her story arc. Jordan Fyffe’s portrayal of Ian Maginnis, on the other hand, is well developed. His drunken monologue toward the end of the play keeps the audience entranced throughout and the difficult concepts of grief and sexuality that his character was tackling are well established and well represented. I’d look out for this actor in the future.
It was in moments like Maginnis’ monologue where McNamara’s writing stood out, especially when combined with Fyffe’s acting prowess. However, at other times there’s a touch of clumsiness in the dialogue of I.E.D. Agnes’ scene halfway through the production with Matt Bett’s army Major, fell into a cyclical conversation that was uninteresting and full of gendered clichés. The Major was insisting on the need for a woman’s touch to delivering bad news and highlighting that Agnes had an inability to give this emotion even though she was a woman. It was an interesting point, but delivered in such a blatant way by Bett, that it felt unrealistic and unrelatable. Overall, the scenes where Agnes or Ian were interacting with the other three characters in the play seemed a little unnecessary and with smarter writing, I think this play could have been cut down by about 30 minutes and made into a far more engaging and dynamic two-hander between Agnes and Ian.
It was in these ‘other’ characters where I also decided to drop my rating from 3 to 2 stars. The penultimate scene where Ian Maginnis gives his emotive monologue was set in the bedroom of an Eastern European prostitute that Agnes has urged him to visit after the emotional turmoil of their day. Throughout this 20-minute scene, this female character says no more than five words and purely acts as a sounding board for Maginnis’ stream of consciousness. She is merely a prop in the corner of the room and for a play that explores the concept of gender, sexuality, and women “trying to exist in a man’s world” as it states in the programme, I think this two-dimensional portrayal – that does not give a voice to the only other female character in the production – is unforgivable.