Dublin Fringe Festival
Various venues, until September 26
Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” But that was 400 years ago, and now, in the name of progress, it’s time for men to get off the stage entirely. At least that’s the view of some versions of feminism. And those versions are becoming more mainstream with every day that passes.
I admit prejudice: the idea scares the sh*t out of me. I kind of like men, and think their input should inform half society’s structure. The fact that women have been crucifyingly unrepresented in the past doesn’t change that.
If women resent how they have been treated by male-dominated society over the generations, perhaps it behoves us to show the patriarchy how to behave in a generous and fairminded society – maybe with the nursery adage “play nicely and share your toys”?
That’s definitely not the thought behind Masterclass, the new production given life by Brokentalkers and Adrienne Truscott at Project for the Fringe Festival – and, damn me, it’s hilarious.
Written by Feidlim Cannon, Gary Keegan and Truscott, the play opens with an apparent TV-streamed masterclass in which a tutor/host, played by Cannon, sets out to demonstrate how to take down a typically misogynistic, famous male playwright who wallows in his notoriety.
Enter Adrian Truscott – Adrienne Truscott in male drag – athletic, macho, self-important, and bearing an uncanny resemblance to Ernest Hemingway, the daddy of them all. Adrian explains his methodology and motivation, and then proposes that he and his interlocutor role-play a scene from his latest Pulitzer-winning drama – called, predictably, Fat C**t – in which a woman in a New York bar, played by Cannon, in falsetto, is trying to brush off a pick-up attempt. She ”just wants to be left alone”. Except, as Adrian explains, she doesn’t really because women are – you’ve guessed it – c**ts.
Cue bar lady being distraught and Cannon’s interviewer also shaken at seeing things from a female perspective. It’s what women do to men, explains the triumphant Adrian: you have to go deep into these things to dig them out.
And as it’s played out by Cannon and a sublimely monstrous Adrienne Truscott, it actually makes sense in the macho world of male-dominated, novel-writing genre, where guns are phallic symbols.
Then the two become their “real-life” selves to discuss their motivation for doing the show as a collaborative venture. Its (imaginary) genesis was a festival in Australia where Cannon crashed a party of five women celebrating having won awards, and talked about himself.
Adrienne subsequently asks him to acknowledge crass and entitled behaviour, as she reduces him to babbling embarrassment by starting to strip (in real life, Truscott was once in a burlesque act).
Male artists have had it their own way for too long, she says. Now they must pay by leaving the stage in favour of women. After all, the record of their past work will still be there, while most women’s has never been recorded. Tables nicely turned. But does she win?
The set is by Ellen Kirk, with costumes by Sarah Foley. The fantastic movement direction is by Eddie Kay, lighting is by Dara Hoban, and sound is by Jennifer O’Malley.
How to save the world with a Hootenanny and a brass neck is the theme of Fionn Foley’s Tonic. It’s described as a “blistering” satirical musical for our times. It’s not. But it’s great fun, and displays some cracking musical talent from the cast of Foley himself, Juliette Crosbie and Aoife Kelly as the members of the (amazing) Calibri Triplet Family Band.
It’s 2047, and we’ve hit the Apocalypse (not identified). But a manufacturing company has come up with salvation: a tonic called Halcyon which will return humanity to the good old days of the 2020s. The catch is it will only work if everyone, without exception, drinks it, which sounds like one hell of a marketing ploy.
Enter the Calibri Triplet Family Band, hired to do the marketing. Except there are only two of them, sister Jude having got lost along the way, while other sister Lar is non-verbal, so brother Cal does all the singing.
Over time he explains Jude’s absence: she’s dead. Except that she reappears, toting an electric bass guitar. That’s why she was missing: Cal did for her (he thought) because she wanted to desecrate the purity of the folk sound.
But all is apparently forgiven; well, conditionally, and she’s willing to go back on the road to promote Halcyon, provided the electric guitar is included. So the triplets all have a swig of the miracle cure with mixed results.
Except of course, Jude hasn’t forgiven or forgotten the crack on the head that Cal gave her, and has her own plans for the future, which don’t include him but does include a murderous role for gentle Lar.
Tonic really is a tonic: theatrical nonsense, great fun, with inspired musical talent and sneakily clever lyrics delivered with aplomb and oomph. It’s directed by Ronan Phelan, with a tongue-in-cheek fairground booth set by Zia Bergin-Holly. It’s a Rough Magic production in co-operation with Solstice Arts Centre, and plays until tonight in the Lower Yard of Dublin Castle.
In a lifetime of theatre-going, I don’t think I have ever failed to applaud at the end of a play, albeit unenthusiastically at times. But sadly, that was the case with Rescue Annie at The Peacock, a pretentious amalgam of psycho babble and patronising talking down to an audience, and a premise so tenuous it disintegrated into flights of fancy.
It’s a Once Off production written by Lauren Shannon Jones and Eoghan Carrick, and played (a lot of the time inaudibly) by the former.
The audience is invited to don headphones, which turns out to be merely a gimmick, with some ruminations delivered through them. We begin, says Lauren, with an attempt to come to terms with human unease with that elusive quality of intimacy, and we’re told we’re going to do it through the scene in Hamlet when Ophelia returns his ”tokens”. That’s the same, we’re told kindly, as meeting in Dublin to return a T-shirt after a break-up. Who’d have guessed?
The other presence on stage is a human dummy called Annie, the prototype of models for training in medical resuscitation, ie the most kissed woman in the world who was originally modelled on the death mask of a drowned woman pulled from the Seine in Paris in the 1880s .
Shannon Jones has an imagined relationship with her in which they’re both aspiring actors. At one point she removes her trousers and shoes to dance to a catchy French tune, then dons an Elizabethan ruff to act out the scene from Hamlet (finally). It ends with her telling Annie that it just hasn’t worked. She is quite right. It just doesn’t work.