A fun night but far too fa­mil­iar

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - & - KATYHAYES

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

INCANTATA

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.

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