Monday 17 June 2019

Hue and Cry at Bewley's Cafe Theatre - Dancing in and out of grief

  • Hue and Cry, Bewley's Cafe Theatre, Dublin

Playwright Deirdre Kinahan
Playwright Deirdre Kinahan

Emer O'Kelly sees a comedy as irreverent as it is sharp.

It's a fairly hackneyed theme: the angst-ridden and estranged son or daughter returning to the family home for a parental funeral. It usually heralds hysterical hidden tensions and hatreds surfacing with leaden predictability. (Sometimes, of course, it can work to huge dramatic effect, as in Tom Murphy's The Wake. But there aren't many Tom Murphys around.)

One thing you don't expect is high comedy. And that's what you get in Deirdre Kinahan's Hue and Cry, given a new production by Awake and Sing at Bewley's Cafe Theatre in Dublin. It has a lot of construction faults, such as it being difficult to work out just what the relationship is between Damian and the unseen woman for whom he expresses huge loathing and resentment. It turns out she is the girlfriend his late father "took up with" after his mother died. But it's only towards the end of the play that this becomes clear: most of the time she seems to be an estranged sibling. But the smartness of the observation makes up for it.

Damian has had it rough: his promise as a schoolboy soccer player died as drugs and alcohol took over his life and, though clean, he's still out of work and sees little of the 10-year-old son who lives with Damian's ex in Dublin.

It all contrasts with the "luck" he perceives in his old school friend Kevin, who has been sent to tell him he's not welcome at his father's home after the funeral. Damian is a bit embarrassed by Kevin: he's gay, and not even ashamed of it. He's also a choreographer by trade, something Damian didn't realise you could do for a living, even though he remembers Kevin being good at "the dancing".

And as Damian veers from renewed rage to bemused disbelief at the differences between him and his old mate, we are treated to a re-enactment of Kevin's most recent "piece" which he devised as an expression of grief and how to cope with it. To choreograph bad choreography "danced" by its supposed deviser who is long past the dancing phase of his life, due to dodgy knees, is not easy. (Damian's response to the performance is an uncertain "You're gas".)

There is no choreographer listed, but there is a thank you in the credits to Muirne Bloomer, so one imagines she was responsible for a side-splitting send-up of modern dance.

On stage, Stephen Jones as Damian and Ste Murray as Kevin are equally side-splitting, with plenty of subtlety in the more serious moments, and Will O'Connell's direction is smooth as silk in a good setting lit by Colm Maher.

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