A fun night but far too familiar
Writer Paul Howard, best known as the creator of the Ross O’Carroll-Kelly character, has ventured into deepest Harcourt Street for his new musical set in the eponymous nightclub.
Kerry girl Noeleen ventures up to Dublin, her dream of getting a permanent and pensionable job with the VHI secured. She leaves behind her fiancé Mossy, who has a wind farm, and milks the turbines every day. Once settled in a bedsit in Dublin, Noeleen marches into Copper Face Jacks to ask them to turn down the music. She stumbles upon Gino, the captain of the Dublin football team, who works as a clamper. Gino is racist about Kerry people, arising from a bad experience in the Dingle Gaeltacht with Fungie the dolphin when he was a nipper. But all that prejudice falls away when be meets the girl of his dreams.
Howard’s satire is gentle. The sections set in Kerry are a hilarious send-up of the rural Irish play, complete with a bedraggled Irish mammy, flavoured with notes of the high linguistic style of John B Keane or John Millington Synge. The portrait of the clientèle of Coppers, with its guards, teachers and nurses, is a send-up of all these professions, but is lovingly rendered.
There are several first-rate and memorable songs, with lyrics by Howard and music by Dave McCune or Paul Woodfull. These include a hilarious paean to the health insurer ‘VHI’; a daft love song to a hometown, ‘Cahersiveen’; and a sweet and gently provocative
Town Hall Theatre, Galway July 16 –27
Paul Muldoon’s poem, a moving elegy for the American artist Mary Farl Powers, is adapted for the stage as part of the Galway International Arts Festival, featuring Stanley Townsend. coming out song, ‘I’m Gay, I’m GAA’. Other songs are great dance numbers, like ‘Whoops, I’m Back in Copper Face Jacks’.
Director Karl Harpur does a terrific job injecting energy at every opportunity, and the book and lyrics flow into each other like pints in a Dublin nightclub. Musical director Cathal Synnott gets fine singing from the cast, whipping up the audience into high good humour. Roseanna Purcell gives a charming comic performance as Noeleen, the awkward country girl. Johnny Ward is a terrific Conor McGregor-type as Gino. Stephen O’Leary as the jilted Kerry wind farmer wisely goes broad instead of deep, with a show-stealing performance of pure eejitry.
But what is disappointing is that Howard, despite all the new ideas on display, essentially falls back on familiar territory and recreates Ross O’Carroll-Kelly. Gino turns into a lovable stud-bastard type and it works okay, but feels a bit old hat. The American gender studies professor turning up looking for the father of her child is a great idea, but the writing surrounding it is weak. Michele McGrath gives a commanding performance in the role, however.
Given the paucity of decent writing on the stage in Ireland at the moment, and given that Howard is such a brilliant observer of Irish social mores, it’s a pity that this isn’t just a little bit sharper. It needs a few more teeth, and could have acquired them without losing any of its commercial bite.
MARY AND ME
Viking Theatre, Clontarf July 16–21
Written and performed by Irene Kelleher, this is a fictionalised engagement with the tragedy of Ann Lovett who died alone in childbirth at a grotto in 1984, a story which still grips the public. WICKED
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre July 17– Sept 1
This musical extravaganza full of technical wizardry returns for a long summer run. The true story of the two witches from The Wizard of Oz reveals all is not what it seemed.