Thursday 22 March 2018

Ross the rascal gets away with murder yet again


emer o'kelly

ROSS O'Carroll-Kelly is an icon among a huge circle of Irish people, most of whom howl with delight at the wickedness of his creator Paul Howard, while remaining too sublimely stupid to realise that they themselves are the target of the satiric ire.

The rugby-playing, lazy thicko with (apparently) the large member, has his latest incarnation in Between Foxrock and a Hard Place, a Landmark/MCD production at the Olympia in Dublin, still set in the environs of leafy Foxrock, where Ross's parents have discovered to their horror that while they are trying to sell their vastly devalued "desirable property" prior to their divorce, they are about to have their address re-designated "Sandyford East".

Cue Celtic meltdown shenanigans, most of them handled by Howard with considerable aplomb, and including the ultra-fashionable accolade of a tiger kidnap/hostage situation.

The audience adore it and, in the fashion of their hero, allow the barbs to soar way above their heads (such as the admission by Ross that he only learned to read and write in his late teens, taught by his favourite squeeze Sorcha, his 10-grand-a-term education at Castlerock having failed to deliver the goods).

There's also a pointed lecture on the sickening nature of Irish society delivered by O'Carroll-Kelly pere in the course of the evening, without any visible sign of a tongue in a cheek. But for his devotees, the main comic point gives the oddly likeable Ross an opportunity to show the essentially decent stuff he's made of along the way.

Jimmy Fay directs expertly, although what he was doing to permit the theatrical mortal sin of radio-mikes being worn by the cast I can't imagine. No competent actor needs them. (And with sound designed by Philip Stewart, they work extremely badly, the sound going from echoing boom to inaudible.)

The rest of the technical credits are well up to scratch in this piece of high production values, with terrific design by Joe Vanek excellently lit by Paul Keogan.

There's a cast to die for: Rory Nolan as Ross, Philip O'Sullivan as the Old Man, Susan Fitzgerald as mother, Laurence Kinlan as Ross's criminally minded 12-year-old "accidental" son (visibly too old for the part, but still . . .), Lisa Lambe and Aoibhinn McGinnity as the impossibly gorgeous, viciously steely women in Ross's life,(he being more than inclined to forget that the latter is his recently-discovered half-sister) and Gary Cooke in a gem-like performance as a traumatised Irish soldier-turned-incompetent gangster.


BECKETT may have denied that his Endgame is a post-nuclear threnody; but hopefully it is not too impertinent to suggest that he was more influenced by the threat of nuclear wipe-out than he realised.

First staged in 1957, at the height of the perceived "Soviet threat", its theme of isolation in a shrinking world where all other life is wiped out (at least in the minds of the characters), the play makes for a surge of recognition of the paranoia of its time. And even now, it still reminds us that we exist only at the whim of others, and that our isolation is the ultimate portent of our end, whether we face it complacently or in agony.

Alan Stanford, who has previously played Hamm in Endgame, moves to the director's chair in the Gate's new production for its Relish of Language season. And this time, Owen Roe is Hamm, the great bear of a man blind and confined to his chair in the bleak half-basement room that looks out on to nothingness. Something has convinced him that he is the centre, and when his chair is moved he flies into a raging panic, demanding that he be returned there by Clov, the self-appointed servant bewildered by his own willing servitude, and living out the days in endless repetition of pointless care, except that there is nothing else he can do: Hamm cannot see, but Clov cannot bend his legs to sit. And the world slowly closes in with nothing left for them.

The nothingness is exemplified by Nagg and Nell, Hamm's aged parents who live out their final days and hours closed in dustbins, their legs rotted away, and nothing left but the power of shifting memory which brings the only surcease in this terrible nothingness: Nagg can still weep.

"Finished it must be" is Hamm's first line in the play, and we spend its duration willing them all to be released; but apart from Nell's merciful end, we leave them cruelly suspended in continuing nothingness, while Clov even seems to be about to make an attempt to defy inevitability and walk into the even more fearful emptiness outside.

It is Roe's Hamm which most closely encompasses the sense of apocalypse: he plays with a kind of chillingly playful cruelty that is deeply unnerving. David Bradley's Clov is suitably fatalistic, but his accent ranges from generic north country English to singularly unsuccessful (and unnecessary) generic "Oirish," which is distracting. Des Keogh and Rosaleen Linehan are Nagg and Nell, both perhaps a little too forceful for their ghastly situation.

The set is by Eileen Diss, with sound by Mick Hughes.

Sunday Independent

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