Saturday 3 December 2016

Theatre: The Importance of Nothing is 'an enjoyable bawdy romp'

Theatre Review: The Importance of Nothing, Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Katy Hayes

Published 16/11/2016 | 09:54

L-R: Andrew Bennett and Mark O' Halloran in The Importance of Nothing
L-R: Andrew Bennett and Mark O' Halloran in The Importance of Nothing
L-R: Mark O' Halloran and Andrew Bennett in The Importance of Nothing
The Importance of Nothing, Project Arts Centre, Dublin
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Pan Pan do oblique adaptations of established works, dismantling and refashioning them, mining the source material for wealth. It is like theatrical fracking. This piece is devised by the company around the work of Oscar Wilde, including fairytales, plays, and his prison letter De Profundis.

The show is shaped around drama workshops conducted by a prison educator (Una McKevitt) with three male prisoners in order to cure them of homophobia, which she presumes they have because “you are men and you are criminals”. Two of the prisoners are pure gay, and the other might be a little. She herself is bisexual.

This is Wilde as gay icon and martyr, rather than the witty, urbane and cerebral Wilde. Wilde’s signature aphoristic wit is replaced by a bawdy humour and physical comedy. This means there is something crucial missing from the overall picture.

L-R: Mark O' Halloran and Andrew Bennett in The Importance of Nothing
L-R: Mark O' Halloran and Andrew Bennett in The Importance of Nothing

But there are several brilliant sequences. Mark O’Halloran and Andrew Bennett act out the melodramatic climax of A Woman of No Importance in hilarious style. And when they do it a second time, Dylan Tighe joins them as their illegitimate son. Passages about growing up gay in Ennis and Limerick, and poetry readings on a bus to Bundoran, are very funny. All the performances are top-notch.

Direction by Gavin Quinn is highly effective within the scenes, but the bigger picture doesn’t quite come off. An underused Judith Roddy, who plays a quiescent prison guard, has a difficult job trying to bring the whole vehicle onto a more emotional level late in the show.

But even if the parts are greater than the sum, this is still an enjoyable bawdy romp.

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