Thursday, October 09, 2003

REVIEW: Kevin McAleer's Chalk and Cheese (Project, Dublin)

How anyone would choose to spend their time this Festival in the company of Brian Friel, Tom Kilroy, or almost anybody other than Kevin McAleer is a mystery.

The Omagh comic’s one-man comedy, Chalk and Cheese, is the definitive highlight of either of this year’s Festivals, one of those events recommended only to those content to find themselves rolling on the floor, breathless and speechless with delirious laughter.

On the face of it, Chalk and Cheese is the diary of a madman, a tour of some brand of paranoid psychosis narrated from the inside by Kevin (or at least by McAleer’s Kevin character.)

If we stop and look around for a moment, the subject matter of the show never strays far from insanity, murder and confinement. Stick with this extraordinary guide, however, and you’ll experience instead a glittering universe of ricocheting references, sudden reversals of logic, flickering verbal tricks, dizzying rocket trips of the imagination and sweet, fairytale surrealism.

All of the above is delivered with nanosecond perfect timing - if you want to see what dramatic shape is all about, check out McAleer’s pauses, not Kilroy’s plays. So even a momentary lapse in concentration can leave you lost down a sidestreet when the guide is back on the main thoroughfare of his wit.

It might be easy enough to transcribe fragments of that wit, but that would be depriving you of the chance to hear it directly from the mouth of a writer and performer of unique skills and rare, rare quality. You have until Saturday.

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