Friday 9 December 2016

Fast Intent's good intentions do not quite make it

Emer O'Kelly

Published 13/04/2015 | 02:30

There are two main things wrong with Gerard Adlum's The Man in Two Pieces: it needs two more drafts, and two more actors. The play is a Fast Intent production, premiering at Theatre Upstairs at Lanigan's on Eden Quay in Dublin. (It marks the premiere of the theatre's move to evening performance, 7pm nightly.)

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The play is eerily reminiscent of Friel's Faith Healer, with the central character, a vaudeville charlatan touring with a seedy show around the small towns of Ireland in the 1920s. William Kerrigan hails from Golden in Co. Tipperary, and has "notions"; he also collects various misfits along the way of his travels, who serially perform as The Great Gustavo, a hypnotist, and The Adonis, a strong man, wherever the show pitches its tent.

Also along the way is a narrator, a slightly slow 14-year-old boy who (literally) runs away with the circus.

The action concentrates on the tragic aftermath of an incident when the show is burned out and Kerrigan is beaten up during the War of Independence due to his accent, taken as an indicator of British/imperial sympathies.

The problem is that not enough is made of this pivotal event in the text; nor is the author a good enough actor to take on the roles each of Gustavo, the Adonis, and the slow-witted boy: characterisation takes more than clenching your fists and shrugging your shoulders.

And paradoxically he's not helped by a wonderingly pathetic Kerrigan from Stephen Brennan, his bluster crumbling like a piece of stale bread being fed to a ravenous flock of predatory birds. The contrast is just too great; and that's not being unkind to Adlum: it takes a lot to compete with an actor of Brennan's stature.

Directed by Sarah Finlay, lit by Eoghan Carrick and designed by Rebekka Duffy, The Man in Two Pieces has the seeds of a good, if conventional play. A bit more work and a slightly larger budget might have brought it to fruition.

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