Wednesday, March 07, 2007

REVIEW: Trousers (Andrews Lane Theatre, Dublin)

I wonder if you called a play Skirts, would you have the theatre stuffed with men? (Evidence from The Vagina Monologues would suggest to the contrary.) But giving tonight's show the title Trousers has certainly had the effect of filling the house with (at a rough calculation) an 85% female audience. Was there a ticket giveaway on the Orla Barry show? Or are these women really that curious about Paul Meade and David Parnell's latest meditation on the inner workings of male relationships?

Because it is not a pretty picture, in any sense of the phrase. Portly Mick (Gerry McCann) has turned up on the doorstep of his old mucker, long-steak of misery, Dermot (Tom Murphy (2)). Back in their college days, the two shared an exuberant summer of waitering, dishwashing and drinking in Manhattan, but ever since, it seems, their friendship has been in decline.

Mick's waistline has expaneded in indirect proportion to his self-confidence, while Dermot has lately come to the startling realisation that he feels lonely, and probably clinically depressed. He's started taking the pills his doctor gave him, drinking herbal tea and attempting to move his empty mug by sheer positive thinking. The last thing he needs right now is exactly what life has to offer: Mick, an abusive houseguest with history and his own crisis to mange.

Trousers may have a poster than screams knock-about comedy, but the slapstick ends there. Meade and Parnell's play is a sincere, frequently glum and pessimistic look at friendship between two men, with all its co-dependency, subterfuge, face-saving and good old-fashioned lying. Moments of levity exist, but they serve mostly to remind us what a minute role laughter has in these two messy lives, each of which has attained sadness through its own, distinctive route. But then, the ladies already knew that all men aren't the same, didn't they?

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Monday, October 16, 2006

REVIEW: Everyday (Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin)

Have you see this man? You’re bound to remember if you have. Strange fright wig, face painted all over in white, maniac grin carved out in shades of blue and red?

The Corn Exchange theatre company theatre company’s latest production in the trademark style – a hybrid of commedia del’arte, steeped in Chicago improv -- is set in a contemporary city rather like Dublin, and features a set of urban nomads who might just turn out to be me and you, and everyone we know.

There’s the abandoned starter wife of the successful property developer, drunk in city centre hotel: hasn’t she noticed she’s surplus to requirements? Get a load of the Bowie-loving muso who forgot to learn to play an instrument. He really should know better than to start teaching Lolita to his uncomprehending TEFL class. Look out for the Aussie office bitch terrorising her simpering staff: she’ll do the same for you if you come across her, four sheets to the wind in a snazzy bar. And – a word to the wise -- beware that new mother: there’s cocaine in the breast milk around here.

This fine set of characters roam the stage, sometimes performing little solos, sometimes miming in silhouette, sometimes stumbling across each other as they go about their business, in a series of short, sweetly interlocking scenes. At times, it can call to mind the Fast Show, or indeed Little Britain, with sadly human characters only partially obscured by the grotesque comic ticks and monstrous makeup.

Everyday is not, all the same, as deeply rewarding as some of the company’s previous shows. The contemporary setting accounts for part of this. For the first time since Carshow, the dramas, little triumphs and abject failures are rooted in a world around us, something that ends up grounding the excitement a little. Perhaps the grotesques are simply a little more familiar than is useful: after all, the gap between Rosaleen Lenihan or Twink at their worst and these cartoon exaggerations is not all that large.

All the same, performances from the ensemble cast (Corn Exchange first timers Derbhle Crotty, Louise Lewis and Simon Rice, along with old hands and true believers, Andrews Bennett, Janet Moran, Mark O’Halloran and Tom Murphy) are crisp and inventive, by turns poignant and very funny. And unfair as it is to single anyone out, O’Halloran’s big, head-to-toe performance may leave you with an grin on your face that just won’t wash off.

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