A welcoming man placed a number on my shoulder, reinforcing my expectation that an impending monologue would explore ‘the labelling of people such that they become less human’ and its repercussions.
This is not what happened during I Am A Man.
Instead, in a disused retail unit in Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, the secret thoughts of an un-named checkout operator were voiced from a shop counter, her altar. She enacted her days, replicas all; the anticipated daily arrival of an attractive customer her only joy. As she struggled in a life of her own creation, it was she who projected labels on to those around her and herself, making it difficult to fully empathise with her sufferings and hopes.
Despite the extremes of her character, Una Mac Nulty’s performance was warm and contained, subtly implying that not every act recounted is simply imagined, though the repetition - employed to manifest monotony - became slightly tedious itself. The ‘I Am A Man’ motif was similarly repeated, but there seemed little in common with this particular checkout operator and the courageous men of the Memphis strike of 1968.
Putting away my expectations, I enjoyed the narrative for what it was, as it sparkled often with humour, poignancy and sharp observation.