Monday 20 November 2017

Taxidermy plus starvation equals bizarre high comedy

Emer O'Kelly finds a surreal ass a laugh a minute

Michael James Ford as Mahone and Ruairí Heading as Ernest in 'Buridan's Ass' by SR Plant
Michael James Ford as Mahone and Ruairí Heading as Ernest in 'Buridan's Ass' by SR Plant

Have you heard about Buridan's ass? It starved to death because it couldn't make up its mind which of two bales of hay to eat. And Mr Mahone the taxidermist is in the same quandary: he can never make up his mind between the women who flit or otherwise pass through his life. So here he is in his taxidermist's shop with his assistant Ernest who, by his own admission, looks like the kind of person who gets fired; and he's trying to stuff a badger to impress his latest flame (the badger is her dear departed pet.)

SR Plant's Buridan's Ass is, to put it mildly, a surreal comedy. It's also a very good and well-constructed short play, with the advantage of being wildly and darkly comic, which surreal-style writing sometimes doesn't manage to achieve.

It was first produced in the Fringe Festival 12 years ago, but I don't remember it being quite so funny then; so perhaps it's the direction and playing this time around that gives it the edge.

Michael James Ford and Ruairi Heading play Mahone and Ernest respectively, and their interaction is a treat to watch as the former relates the romantic episodes of his past life to his laconically wide-eyed assistant (who is preparing the frozen carcass of a pelican for dinner in lieu of anything more mundanely edible in the house.)

Mahone's past includes a trek across the desert with a sheikh's exotic concubine and her pet civet. And there's more, lots more, in the same vein.

Iseult Golden directs this insane compendium with an admirably tight hand in a set by Andrew Murray lit by Colm Maher and featuring more stuffed heads than... well…than you could shake a civet at. It's at Bewley's lunchtime theatre at Powerscourt in Dublin.

"Buridan's Ass" is, to put it mildly, a surreal comedy

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