Eric Bogosian’s 1987 text, Talk Radio, has much to say to an Irish audience. Its anti-hero, a late night radio talk show host called Barry Champlain, is a mixture of how RTÉ’s Joe Duffy sees himself – a man of the people, and how comedian David McSavage sees him – a self-anointed demi god who gets his professional jollies from the misery of others. His late night call-in show, Nightline, is a base trough, where all sort of prejudices and peculiarities gather and dampen the airwaves through talk that is inane, inarticulate but also inexplicably compelling.

Bogosian’ play wonders why people call such shows, what their choice to express themselves this way tells us about them and about society, and, most importantly, it is an exploration of how social debate is made: grinding the meat of an issue into the thinnest of arguments, seasoned with incendiary remarks and dispensed with before the listener can ascertain its true merit. In a world where trolling of social media is on the rise and media controversialists poison debates by flying to outlandish extremes, Talk Radio is as pertinent now as it was almost thirty years ago.

Originally publishedi in the Irish Theatre Magazine

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As you watch The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle, a whimsical ode to loneliness and woe from writer Ross Dungan which ran in the Smock Alley Main Space last month, you may be stricken by the fear that you are being left behind on the platform. As the production shoots out of the starting gate, multiple narrators take it in turns to set up the tale, introducing a sprinkling of seemingly unrelated characters, all sharing a taste for the same rapid vocal delivery. It certainly unnerves and the productions move from the more intimate Lir space means they are now being viewed- or not as the case may be, from three sides.

Thankfully the purity of feeling and rustic warmth of Dungan’s heartfelt text is given life by a cast of performers who flit easily between roles that call for broad caricature and powerful emotions. Who bring the house down one minute with sublime physical comedy and silence it the next with their intense focus on the plays many heartbreaking swerves. It caters not just to the audiences theatrical intellect – the narrative form is a visual and aural treat, but feeds into that great human fear, of dying alone and leaving no mark.
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Oliver at the BGET

October 28, 2013

When I was a tyke I drove my parents demented by continually bursting into the gin soaked melodies of an orphan turned millionaire who escapes the clutches of negligent care to find happiness. It wasn’t Oliver. It was Annie, whose cute quips, wisecracking fellow foundlings and the boozehound singleton Mrs. Hannigan fed my inner drag queen. Oliver I found that little bit too quaint, even as a child. And the character himself left me cold.

Cameron Mackintosh’s revival at the BGE Theatre is one of the best productions to come to the venue. Recent shows have been underwhelming by their very nature (the book to a jukebox musical never allows for a strong emotional thread) and fiber (third rate celebrities in shows at deaths door). But Oliver! has terrific production values, a solid cast and a great set of songs for the audience to sing along to.
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The Abbey have all the trimmings of a great Christmas feast in their adaptation of the James Joyce short story The Dead. What it’s lacking is the meat. Set on the Feast of the Epiphany, during the Morkan sisters’ annual dance and dinner, it charts through the course of the evening the great sadness and loss that underpins the celebration, as memories warm then chill the heart. The Dead is a stark story about damaged lives, despite the fireside warmth its many party scenes project and Frank McGuinness’s wonderful adaptation uses the songs of Thomas Moore and other period artists to honey drip sadness throughout the production, so that beneath every bite that’s taken, every drink drunk and song that’s sung, that crucial pain of stricken souls should be felt, sharply.
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Jezebel at the P.A.C.

October 28, 2013

There is a fine line between letting an audience know you are having the time of your life on stage and smugly rubbing their faces in your self appreciation. The cast of Mark Cantan’s terrific comedy, under the watchful eye of director Jose Miguel Jimenez, impart the joy of the language here without ever affecting the character. But so fast are the laughs, so frantic the screwball action, that doing anymore than what Cantan had succinctly prescribed would kill the humour. And possibly the actors.
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Smock Alley Boys School is, perhaps, the most atmospheric theatre in the city. With its exposed brick, declining gangway and multi-storey viewpoints it brings to mind one of those Victorian Asylums where the public used to come to observe the mentally ill. Hence, it lends itself to plays that delve into the mind, that excavate fractured psyches and mount them as art. But the building often bears the burden when companies become overwhelmed by the possibilities the space provides and forget that the play is the thing. This is the case for Maylin Productions and The Dead Woman’s Son.

Originaly published in the Irish Theatre Magazine

The corrosive power of hate is tempered by lives filled with regret in Owen McCafferty’s Quietly, a seemingly simple play marked by seething questions. Two men meet for the first time at a bar, a place that is poignant for both. Ten years after the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Irish capital is at uneasy peace with itself. But even as past disputes are put to unlikely rest, new resentments are raising their heads, with racial tensions filling the sectarian void. The mounting menace of the outside world rubs against the conflicted characters McCafferty places at and behind the bar. But, while there is no spark, no ignition in the conversation between the men, there’s a constant threat that it could kick off, reflecting the province, a powder keg of anger awaiting the right match to make it blow.
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Anglo The Musical

October 28, 2013

Speaking about Anglo: The Musical in his column earlier this week Fintan O’Toole said that ‘there are, in our present state, much worse things to do to audiences than agitate them’. Yes, you can bore them. Which is how I felt watching Paul Howard’s parodic puppet fable at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Aside from the lax singing and non-existent choreography (the trade mark of the form in Ireland) the whole thing simply wasn’t stage ready. On a technical, performative or satiric level.
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American Idiot at the BGET

October 28, 2013

Punk rock and Glee collide in this garish good time running until Saturday at the Grand Canal’s Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Those expecting a powerful political statement about wasted youth and shattered dreams in George Bush-era New York will be left wanting. There’s nothing beyond the barest bones of a plot to this adaptation of Green Day’s career high album from 2004 (with additional songs from 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown and a crude singalong-baiting rendition of one of their biggest hits). That said the infectious energy of the young cast coupled with the pounding live band and vivacious staging of director Michael Mayer means the brutal book doesn’t become a barrier to the good time had by all.
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We Irish have a great knack of assigning and avoiding blame. We huff and puff about what state the country is in while sidestepping our role in it. We harangue across social and traditional media platforms about the games our politicians play, but rarely change our own tactics. And while our faces flush with fury when faced with follies of old, we usually avoid eye contact with the injustices of the present day.

Originally Published in the Irish Theatre Magazine