Monday 22 January 2018

a passionate heart lifts birthday man

Emer O'Kelly

Philip Doherty's play The Birthday Man packs quite a punch. And that is actually rather surprising because it is far too long, the construction is all over the place, the datelines for the generations are sloppy, and the ultimate pivotal moment lacks motivation.

The reason it works despite such glaring faults is that its passionate heart lies in the right place as it traces four generations of a family from the 1913 Lockout to the beginnings of 21st-Century boomtime vulgarity. Again, it seems not to be quite certain of the point it wants to make, other than that Ireland is a s***-hole, and always was; but it makes the point with conviction and great heart.

It's presented at Smock Alley studio in Dublin by Gonzo Theatre from Cavan for the Fringe Festival, and again, much of the floppiness can be explained by the fact that the author directs and also is the Artistic Director of the company.

That kind of production structure all too frequently leads to self-indulgence, and as a result Doherty does his obvious talent no favours: some rigorous editing and less reverential direction would make for a crisper evening's theatre. But by and large he is served well by his cast, all of whom play numerous roles (again, we could do with a few fewer dramatis personae) with particular plaudits for Rex Ryan and Ruairi Heading in their portrayals of a pair of 1970s IRA thugs wreaking havoc in London.

The set is designed by Joseph Doherty, and lit by Mark Galione with projections by Annie June Callaghan.

Sunday Independent

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