Fishing with the best lines - Theatre with Emer O'Kelly
There is a very long list of grateful credits in the programme for Hooked, Gillian Grattan's new play at the Viking Sheds Theatre in Clontarf in Dublin. They range from Karl Shiels, director of Theatre Upstairs, through Ben Hennessy of Waterford-based Red Kettle, to Don Wycherley, the actor/director who has directed this production, and who has apparently "stuck by Hooked over the past couple of years." So it's nice to be able to say that they certainly didn't waste their time or their faith.
Hooked is a cracker: a malicious little take on village xenophobia, family values, the sanctity of the "normal" marriage, law and order Irish-style, and a few other things that I can't recall off-hand, but that kept hitting me as I watched this close-to-glorious send-up of all we are supposed to hold dear.
The Hooked of the title refers to fishing, the time-consuming hobby enjoyed by Tom, harassed and more-or-less gloom-filled husband, with another hobby that's less evident: he's an underwear cross-dresser.
His wife Mary's hobby is simpler: she just likes being unpleasantly belligerent, sharing that hobby with her best friend Majella over copious quantities of vodka while Majella vents her spleen over the skirt-chasing antics of her own less-than-adequate husband.
Into this little maelstrom steps the not-quite-unwitting Lydia, Dublin "Chrissie" and rock-band grass widow with her own agenda, much of it sad. It all gets resolved with a great deal of comedy and not a little tragedy: Grattan's gift is to give her characters back-stories which are predicated on the fact that nobody's character or behaviour is either simple or simplistic.
The ever-dependable Steve Blount plays Tom with engagingly rueful candour, with Tina Kellegher giving the rancid Mary a satisfying level of buried vulnerability, while Seana Kerslake has a reverse order of sprightly sweetness that buries a darkness of spirit.
And Wycherley does a fine job of piloting the whole thing for Evil Little Genius Productions.
* * *
Noel Coward as an inspiration as well as a saviour of the sanity and the marriage of a Dublin suburban couple is an unlikely scenario; but it works with flair, distinction and gently wry humour in Gerard Lee's One Is Not Oneself, a Cadence production at the New Theatre in Dublin.
The unnamed couple (they address each other only as "Darling") are visibly resentful and miserable, he slouched in an armchair with a pile of dog-eared newspapers beneath it, she the administrator, handing out the spoils of what is clearly a daily shopping trip; the trip seems to be the only outside household activity.
But a shadowy figure sits in the shadows at a piano, ready to be brought alive if the couple permits it. They had a life once, when the shadowy figure was alive: their now-dead son, once a talented musician who indulged his parents' passion for Noel Coward. But heartbreak and loss have reduced the household to discordant wrangling, she longing to re-live happier times, he unable to bear the memory of happiness.
And gently, Lee brings us through re-generation with an innocent sweetness that rings as true as any confrontation, as the husband is slowly seduced by the bitter-sweet magic of Coward's lyrics and melodies, and the pair learn that sadness will always endure but can find its own joy.
Mark O'Regan and Paula Greevy-Lee turn in gently delightful performances, redolent of genuine emotion and punctuated by pretty impressive performances of a number of the Master's most memorable numbers, while Ronan Murray plays (in both senses of the word) the musician-son.
Direction is by Matthew Ralli with choreography by Lisa Tyrrell.