Leslie-Ann Riley plays closeted lesbian Maura Higgins who works in the Civil Service and is blackmailed because of her sexuality.

Denyer: ‘Another shameful chapter in Ireland’s history’

The decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland happened in 1993 and 25 years later in 2019, to celebrate one of our country’s most important milestones, we put on “a bit of a whimper”.

Playwright Dr Sean Denyer’s latest award-winning production ‘The Decriminalisation Monologues’ is his answer to that profoundly frustrating and shameful fact.

Written in 2019, the play, which has wowed audiences at home and abroad, sets out to educate, expose and shock in its quest to cement one of Ireland’s biggest victories in history.

Sean says: “I didn't think that the occasion was really marked in the way it should have been. There was a bit of a do in Dublin Castle where the great and the good were invited, but it didn't tell ordinary people’s stories that had never been told who really paved the way to the more equal place that we're at now.”

“I was a bit annoyed, so this play is a bit of a response to that, to the lack of celebration and the lack of knowledge around the kind of things that people have had to put up with,” the decorated playwright adds.

‘The Decriminalisation Monologues’ tells the stories of the ordinary gay people who showed the courage and bravery that ensured equality finally came.

The stories are drawn from discussions with older gay people in Ireland, stories that might very well shock today’s generation, stories that show how we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.

Sean says the stories are, to some degree, the result of a blend of real stories and interpretations assembled in order to tell a story.

He says Ireland as a whole is not properly informed on the struggle of gay people and how they have arrived to where they are now in terms of equality.

Since ‘The Decriminalisation Monologues’ began to be performed in 2019, he says it has received more feedback than any other piece he has written and that a lot of it is down to people simply having no idea of the struggles Ireland’s gay people endured throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

He says: “I think we've had more feedback from this piece than any other piece we've ever done.

“We've had some incredibly moving emails and messages from older LGBT people who had been through some of these situations that the characters had been through.

“We’ve also had amazing feedback from straight families of LGBTQ people who came to the show and had no idea of what they had been through. We've had some very strong reactions. A lot of the Irish that came to our show in Brighton had escaped to Brighton in the much darker times because they did not feel accepted in their own country and had to leave, even by their own family.”

The first part of the production tells the story of Moira, an ambitious young civil servant in 1970s Dublin who is forced to confront being blackmailed at work for who she is. She must now decide if she just submits to it or fights back and risks everything that she’s worked for.

The second story is based around Mark who moves, very reluctantly, from London to rural Ireland to live with his Irish boyfriend, where they start up a gay-friendly guesthouse which becomes a big success. But it’s the 1980s and gay men are dropping like flies, and when tragedy strikes, he is forced to confront a society that doesn’t acknowledge his existence.

“It's another shameful chapter in Ireland’s history that a lot of people don't know about or understand but also, we wanted to not have it be a misery tale. I think the piece is actually quite funny in parts and it's really showing people’s resilience and strengths rather than portraying them as victims,” he says.

He adds: “This piece will remind people of where we come from and that we need to be vigilant in terms of not taking these things for granted. We're still finding out terrible things about our past.”

Winner of the National GALA Award for Irish Arts and Entertainment in 2020 and nominated for Best Play at fringe theatre festivals in Prague, Brighton and Manchester,

‘The Decriminalisation Monologues’ will be presented at the Gay Project centre on Sawmill Street tomorrow, Friday, and will be raising funds for the Cork-based organisation, Gay Project.