Hitting the Mark at Smock Alley
September 10, 2014
This whirl, from Ramblin Man Theatre Company, is a half-formed thing, a revved up, rattling, runt of a production. With a couple of well placed cuts and a steadier grasp on their infectious enthusiasm, the biting satire, the nervy romantic sub-plot and the air of country Gothic could blend more seamlessly together, making their central themes ping rather than crash wildly over the audience.
As is, its gas craic, that successfully skewers the exploitative milking of nostalgia and the lofty pedestals wannabe artistes perch themselves upon.
Glenroe has gotten the HBO treatment as an American producer (Karl Quinn) sets out to do to for Kilcoole what David Simon did to Baltimore with The Wire. Helped by Susan Slott (playing herself)- an actress whose career was destroyed by her association with the character she played almost 20 years ago, she sets about reeking revenge on the part, by turning Shirley into a cross between Norma Desmond and William Shatner, as co-star, Eamon, rips at the seams of his sanity over the price he pays for his paycheck.
The years slogging away in pretentious art fop is doubly tainted by the ease with which his lay-about flat mate, Ray, breaks into the industry and this latter relationship is wielded like a feathered cat-o-nine tails, to poke fun at the misconceptions people who work outside of the arts world have about those who work within it- as well as the immense frustrations that come with being a ‘principled’ creative.
Meta-madness abounds. Not only via Slott’s involvement (and other soap royalty appearing by Skype) but, when you consider both director Aaron Monaghan and writer/star Cillian o Gairbhi are among the few actors to stick their head above the parapet and speak openly about problems they see in theatre in Ireland, it’s hard not to wonder if there is more than a dollop of mischief in the heartfelt diatribes.
It’s not quite at the standard of their previous co-production Pondling, but it’s within its grasp. Too many jokes serve the same purpose in O’Gairbhi’s script- often relating to his own character (Ray). Kevin Shackelton and co-star Clare Monnelly (of Moone Boy) have a natural charm, which director Monaghan should draw upon when exploring the nervous, awkward energy of their characters, instead of ramping it up to the mania of Slott and Gairbhi’s parts, which can occasionally make the tone a little samey.
But writing a large ensemble on your first time out, that not only has plenty of laughs but some solid points too, marks o Gairbhi and his co-writer, Sean Tadhg o Gairbhi, as ones to watch.