I Am A Man/I Love Guns/The Cappuccino Culture

September 27, 2010


Anyone who has worked in retail will identify with Una McNulty’s check out girl in this warm, slightly skewed look at life on the shop floor from Iris Park.  The little things that keep you going, the thoughts that get you through the day, there all here in this involving one woman show that centres on a mousy, shy number’s attempts to be counted. From rearranging the gum and the tic tacs in a cascade of strength and color to her shy flirtations with a regular customer it is the familiar that keeps her rooted.  And when the natural order of things is broken she finds it difficult to keep her self in check.

Park’s inventive dialogue arouses a sense of things being accounted for, like a stream of consciousness, until they are found to be amiss and she becomes faint and silent. There is some nice observational humor here, an affective use of sound and an engaging central performance from McNulty.  It is staged in a disused shop front in St Stephens Green Shopping Centre, a lunch time show that last just over 45 minutes.
It might have been the lashing rain, the fact that it was a last minute substitution for a very different alternative(True Enough) or it may simply have been a case of fringe fatigue where, 20 shows in, my brain just wasn’t playing ball. But the purpose behind Stam vs O’Neill’s I Love Guns at Smock Alley  was lost on me.

Two characters enter, drenched to the core and stare hopefully at the audience. They take up their positions, sitting opposite one another at a table and begin to recite their lines. There is the odd flicker of structure, where the words connected to form images(such as the woman who ate her own skin), some interesting spiels on the purpose of guns( such as Jody O Neill’s prerecorded monologue) and one laugh out loud moment( five reasons why some men prefer a handgun to a woman) but they never really use words as weapons and weapons as words. It lacks any propulsion, just meanders on and aside from one rather bizarre bit of movement there’s nothing to visually grab us. Much of the script  derives from the Colin Farrell school of profanity(fuck for fucks sake), and by the end of the piece the tedium had become unbearable. They’re only words, and words are all they are and they’ll take your hour away. Avoid.
I’m not quite sure of the theatrical merits of The Cappuccino Culture but as an evenings entertainment it sure put a smile on my face. Armed with my complimentary olives and sangria I take my place against the back wall facing the balcony. I’m a member of the Blue Team squaring up to the Red in this light hearted game of cultural show and tell.

Not that we get to know much about the 11 non-Irish nationalities in this 14 strong cast. It’s more an exposition of what drew them to this city, what’s kept them here and what they think of their adopted town.  The game itself is a bit random, the rules and the purpose of each section is unclear. But the winsome cast keep us on side, keep us chortling and even illicit the odd “ahhhh” from a gallery drenched to the core but unwilling to let the damp seep through to their spirits.

Some of the segments drag(the musical chair, guess the foreign national, the constant swapping of team mates) and there’s another one of those infernal ‘filler’ dance segments that must be great for the cast to perform in their silly get ups but are really quite tedious to watch. But when it works, it really works( the slagging match might have benefited from subtitles but the gesticulation alone made it worthwhile) and there are some interesting areas to explore with this piece. It might shatter the light hearted appeal but when the show pushed us to expose the inner stereotypist (if not racist) in a game of taboo or charades it developed an edge I thought might go somewhere. It might also be an idea to reduce the number of players so we could identify more with them and learn more about their experience in Ireland. And as proud as I am to be a Paddy it did feel a bit like we were in the centre of a tricoloured circle jerk. The producers of this piece should not be afraid to expose us to who we are, both personally and nationally.  All in all it’s not a “must see” but it is a “glad I saw”.


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