Rarely when a playwright is lauded for his courage is such praise meant in a literal, physical sense. Gary Mitchell, the writer behind Love Matters, has had his home attacked, his life threatened, and his car firebombed. Even without that, it would take a degree of bravery to stage a play about Loyalism in Irish... in Dublin, with live Irish-to-English translation.
None of this would matter if the play itself were poor, but fortunately it's both well written and well acted. Despite the political backdrop of the play it's correctly billed as 'a romantic, tragi-comedy' - it just happens to be set in a working-class Protestant community.
The characters have clear, believable motives, and by keeping his focus on the Loyalist community Mitchell avoids the easy clichés we've all seen countless times in depictions of Northern Ireland. There's no preaching, and the play is even-handed in its depictions of the characters: despite Mitchell's own experiences, Loyalist boss Big Ernie (played by Seán Ó Muireagáin) isn't shown simply as a thug but is a more complex, interesting man with a family and the possibility of moving on from violence.
The structure and pace of the play are good, and it builds well to a very tense final scene.
Conclusion: psychologically plausible and engaging, Love Matters is like a Loyalist version of The Sopranos.
Love Matters continues this evening (Friday 9th) and tomorrow (Saturday 10th March 2012). Friday's performance is in Irish only with no live translation; the Saturday performance will have live translation. There'll be post-show discussions with the cast & director after both remaining shows. Tickets cost €15/€10, and the play is suitable for ages 16+. The play starts at 8:15 pm each evening and runs until about 10:00 pm including an interval (but not including the post-show discussion).