Lots of laughs but little time for reflection
So Sharon Rabbitte is pregnant, this time on the Gate stage. Roddy Doyle’s adaptation of The
Snapper comes nearly 30 years after the book was published and the story really does feel as fresh as when single mothers were scandalous beings and late-night hook-ups with sexual predators were your own fault.
Róisín McBrinn’s direction is heart-warming and mischievous if a little antic, as the scenes move along at a breakneck pace that doesn’t lend itself to letting you think. Her approach to Doyle’s community saga is to plant the story firmly in the Rabbitte family household with the spotlight — literally — on Sharon and her pregnancy.
A grey pebble-dash screen is pulled back to Sharon (Hazel Clifford) announcing her condition to the audience. Her folks — Jimmy Snr and Veronica — think it’s shockin’. She should have told them she was planning on getting pregnant. She’s keeping it though: “Abortion is murder.” And she’s not tellin’ who she’s having it for.
There can’t be a single living soul who has anything against Stephen Frears’ 1993 film adaptation, but the rebooted (slightly abridged) dramatis personae didn’t take a moment to win the crowd, who were on cue with turbo laughs at every punchline.
Clifford conveys all the inner panic and naïveté of Sharon, a colourful debut for this Lir drama student that requires her to perch on a toilet, vomit and push out a baby, while Simon Delaney brings a booming kind of authority to a part everybody thought only Colm Meaney could play. The Amazonian Hilda Fay is marvellous as Veronica (even if she is too cool for the relentless sewing and knitting of her domestic lot) and the Rabbitte children are a scream.
Paul Wills has created a busy, playful set — a patchwork of stripes, paisley, floral, brick and teenage bedroom posters, with the pokey rooms of the Rabbitte house cleverly made up via vehicles moved around by the cast. This merry collage becomes a little overbearing, and leaving the Rabbitte house, it is hard to go elsewhere imaginatively (pub, supermarket, hospital). But hey, there are enough perms, leggings, high waists, Chris de Burgh, ska and synth to keep you immersed in the 1980s for two-and-ahalf hours.
This is a night of comedy and disco, a show that makes you laugh but not reflect. The events that led to Sharon becoming pregnant are shaded over. In the book there is little doubt that she has been raped. In the play, Sharon’s scenes with Georgie Burgess leave the impression of a foolish late-night fumble, as Simon O’Gorman creates a pathetic loser of Mr Burgess. There is triumph, though, in laughing at a predator. “Is it because I’m older?” a love-struck Mr Burgess asks Sharon.
“It’s because I hate the f**king sight of you,” replies our unsparing heroine. Now that is A1.
Colourful debut: Delaney and Clifford