Theatre review: Breaking Dad at The Gaiety Theatre
Breaking Dad, The Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
Writer Paul Howard's third Ross O'Carroll-Kelly stage play is much more of a family affair than the last two.
Incestuously so, as the plot turns on whether Ross's daughter Honor's (Caoimhe O'Malley) new boyfriend Traoloch (Gavin Drea) is his love-child. Ross himself is the last to see the obnoxious similarities between his younger self and the rugby-playing jock.
Establishing paternity is vital to everyone, particularly Ross's loudly spray-tanned wife Sorcha (Lisa Lambe) who, since her father-in-law Charles (Philip O'Sullivan ) is recommending her to the new Bertie Ahern-led government as Ireland's ambassador to the UN, can't have any grubby skeletons in the closet.
The story's set in 2022, which rules out comic commentary on the current social and political scene. Although in 2022 Ireland hasn't changed, or learned much, with people, in the middle of a new economic boom, selling houses to each other for five times what they're worth. Charles gleefully describes it as "the Celtic Phoenix", with Bertie once more in the driving seat.
Although the future setting limits the comic material somewhat, there's more than enough humour to be had from Ross feeling the teething pains of a mid-life crisis, and the physical comedy involved in solving the paternity problem. There's also plenty of the usual acidic insults flying around within the Ross familial menagerie, particularly between Sorcha and Honor. Sorcha, busy making the world safe for human rights, has neglected Honor and she resents it. "It's a big lie" is one retort to Sorcha, "like your marriage and your wrinkle-free forehead." O'Malley plays the 17-year old with vicious conviction, and while the others are largely caricatures, she's a realistic teenage monster.
Caricatures, but unique to Howard's writing and invested with vibrant comic life by the cast of Jimmy Fay's deftly manipulated and detailed production. One of these details is an old video-tape proving Ross's youthful rugby prowess set in a lighted glass-fronted cabinet in the marble door-frame of the house like some sacred relic. There's also the detail of gestural and facial expression. Nolan is the rubbery 'Rossmeister' in this department, but the others revel in comic expressiveness too. Ronan (Laurence Kinlan) only has to stand still, hands in his tracksuit bottoms, down wind of Ross, to get laughs. The very idea that this little mop-haired man with his northside accent and nine children is the son of Ross and Sorcha is absurd enough in itself and Kinlan mines the absurdity to the limit. He's helped by a clamorously supportive audience that bring out the best in the whole cast.