Tuesday 23 January 2018

Theatre Review: Ross's old jokes are still funny

Breaking Dad at The Gaiety Theatre, Dublin

A scene from the play, Breaking Dad.
A scene from the play, Breaking Dad.

Emer O'Kelly

It's 2022 and a lot has been happening in the world of Ross O'Carroll-Kelly, and that of his dad Charles. It all started to come right in the significant year of 2016, when Charles got into a taxi, and the driver was none other than Bertie Ahern. Anniversary? What anniversary? Charles, ever philanthropic, has taken the former Taoiseach under his wing, so successfully that in the aftermath of the 2022 General Election, Ahern is once again Taoiseach, his campaign masterminded by Ross's dad.

Recovery is in full swing, Ross is riding high – and so is wife Sorcha, having risen from the ashes of her bankrupt boutique to qualify as a human rights lawyer. And the new Taoiseach wants to repeat history: a spell as Irish ambassador to the United Nations for the blonde legal bombshell will set the stage nicely for her to step into Aras an Uachtarain as the new Mary Robinson. (Not if Ross has anything to do with it.)

Really, the only fly in the ointment is daughter Honor, shrieking, swearing, stomping her way through Mount Anville, and now 17, a cross between the characteristics which made her parents "great". And, of course, there's half-brother Ronan, no longer resident on the dark northside of Dublin, but playing soccer for Celtic, and a doting father of nine children scattered around this island and our nearest neighbour.

Paul Howard's Breaking Dad, a Landmark and MCD production currently playing at the Gaiety in Dublin, is the third in the Ross saga to be put on stage. The joke may be a tiny bit laboured at this stage, but it is still fairly sharp and at times even side-splittingly funny as Honor brings home her latest squeeze, the captain of Blackrock rugby team, thus reminding Ross of his own glory days of 1999 at Castlerock, and the Leinster Schools Senior Cup ... except that Ross may have risen from the ashes, but his six-pack hasn't, much to his chagrin. In other ways, though, the similarities are eerie ... hint, hint.

Jimmy Fay is once again in the director's chair, getting full and malicious value out of the Phoenix of south Suburbia, and he is more than well served by the regular cast and high production values. (Missing is the late lamented Susan Fitzgerald, the creator of Ross's immortal mother Fionnuala.)

The remaining women look spectacularly gorgeous, but it's the men who walk away with the comic honours. Lisa Lambe is as beautiful a harridan as ever as Sorcha, and Caoimhe O'Malley enters stage left as the foul-mouthed exquisite termagant Honor. She does have some projection problems, and maybe should take the hysteria down a few tones, but still...

But it's Rory Nolan as the dim-witted past hero Ross, with Laurence Kinlan as lovable thug Ronan, along with Philip O'Sullivan as the "cute hoor" Charles who walk away with the plaudits, in no small part because they have the best lines. Meanwhile, Gavin Drea does a cool sense of bewilderment as the unfortunate young Traolach, who finds himself caught in various O'Carroll-Kelly toils.

Paul O'Mahony's set is designed for striking attitudes, which the cast do to perfection, and it's lit superbly by Paul Keogan. The enviable female costumes are by Catherine Fay, and the sound is by Philip Stewart.

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