Week One Reviews – Unguarded

Unguarded, Theatre@36, Teachers Club, runs until Saturday, 7.30pm and matinee Saturday 2.30pm.

Unguarded – Written and performed by Anthony Kinahan

Review by Frank L

Stephen, who is gay is “Dad” to Tadgh a young school going kid. Stephen is a single parent. Tadgh is obsessed by numbers and musicals. He is what is called neurodiverse. The relationship between Stepehn and Tadgh is under challenge as Stephen is not the biological father of Tadgh. Conor is the biological father but he is dead. Conor’s parents are now asserting their claim as grandparents to raise Tadgh. Stephen is in a perilous situation as he may lose the every day pleasures and challenges of bringing up Tadgh who is as far he is concerned, his son and the centre of his universe. He is in a legal quagmire because Ireland has not legislated for the various issues which arise in relation to surrogacy whether between straight or same sex couples. Unguarded addresses some of those issues as seen from an LGBTQ perspective but similar issues arise for heterosexual couples. In other words, legislation is essential. Therefore there should not be delay but sadly there is. This play apart from being an enjoyable theatrical happening is a contribution to the campaign to make the legislation happen.

The staging is stark. Just one single chair in the centre of the stage and on the back wall there is a large screen. When the play begins Tadgh appears singing in a kid-like, all-in-a-rush manner “Seasons of Love” from “Rent” the musical. The lyrics of the song has a mass of numerals. It allows Tadgh to show his facility with numbers and introduces you to his other obsession – musicals. This obsession is highlighted by the projection onto the screen of billboards and record covers from various musicals. The audience as is Tadhg engrossed in musicals.

Kinahan switches with ease from being Tadgh to being Stephen who faces very different challenges. He has, for instance, to contend with Donal and his wife, Conor’s parents and their demands. There are also advisers and officials who crop up in the story all of whom Kinahan brings to three-dimensional life. It is a mighty task but Kinahan is the master of his material. He uses his body, his voice, his skills as an actor and as a dancer, to portray the multiplicity of challenges and emotions which Stephen faces as he battles to maintain the central relationship in his life namely being “Dad” to Tadgh. However, he cannot help venting his anger and frustration at the various legal challenges which he faces.

The play lasts seventy five minutes. Throughout Kinahan has to handle a myriad of changes as he switches from one character to another. This challenge is intensified with numerous off stage cues of ringing mobile phones as he conducts a variety of conversations. Kinahan manages to keep everything under control.


There is throughout a great deal of humour and comedy. While it is a slick and enjoyable performance, it never loses sight of the legal mess within which Stephen and Tadgh are being forced to live. If a criticism is to be made of Unguarded it is the duration of the explanation of Tadgh’s obsession with musicals and numbers in the first part. Perhaps a little pruning here might be of benefit.

The play is going on tour to fifteen venues throughout the country. It shows the need for official Ireland to legislate in relation to surrogacy. But because it is accompanied by laughter and humour, it remains grounded in a human story where both Stephen and Tadgh are individuals who you would like to know. Kinahan bravely tells a story which needs to be told and he does so with a play that is heartwarming. It should be seen and enjoyed.


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