Friday, March 16, 2007

REVIEW: Living With Johnny Depp (Bewley's Café Theatre, Dublin)

As an unabashed product of L'Ecole Jacques Lecoq, the mime and movement cult initiated by the eponymous French guru (now deceased) it's no surprise that Living With Johnny Depp requires an actor with zero interest in hiding behind the script.

True to type, Joanne Mitchell (who created the piece along with two other Lecoq alums) approaches her performance in a manner that can best be described as "giving it some welly".

Playing all three characters in an unholy co-dependent trinity of Head teacher, English teacher and naughty schoolgirl, Mitchell scarcely comes up for air as she reveals the comic desperation of all involved in the education of Shania Sweeney, a Sligo motormouth who makes Vicky Pollard look like AS Byatt.

Shania knows what love is, and she knows that she really, really, really loves Johnny Depp. She knows that they are destined to spend their lives together, to form an alliance against everything rotten the Irish school system has to throw at her. And she knows that one day, very soon now, Johnny will come through the school gates to rescue her from demotion to Foundation English, and save her from the McJob that looms in her future.

But before any of that can happen, she may just have to win Johnny over from the teaching staff, who are just as likely to loose themselves in toe-sucking fantasies "and his brown face, and his brown eyes and his brown hair".

Under Micaela Miranda's direction, Mitchell accomplishes the transitions energetically, differentiating between Shania and her tormentors with broad, comic strokes. Sometimes, however, the pace is so unstinting that it all becomes a tad exhausting – did M. Lecoq never lecture on the joys of rests, of silences? More shaping of the material is also required if some very funny writing isn't to get lost in the mists of weaker stuff. Report Card: could do better -- though it's hard to imagine anyone trying harder.

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