Sunday 22 April 2018

Theatre review: Underneath, Civic Theatre, Tallaght - 'a charming 90 minutes, but a bit more chill would be welcome'

Underneath at the Civic Theatre, Tallaght
Underneath at the Civic Theatre, Tallaght

Katy Hayes

Writer and performer Pat Kinevane creates a cheerful, mischievous and entertaining female corpse in this third instalment of his series of one-man shows for Fishamble: The New Play Company.

Struck by lightening and injured as a child, “Her” has lived life as a physically ugly woman. The disfiguring wounds are compounded by verbal cruelties inflicted casually by peers and elders; her life has become a lonely avoidance of others.

The dead woman is dressed in rags. Black make-up has tinges of gold. Gold fabric drapes provide plenty of lighting moments as a musty sarcophagus atmosphere is expertly conjured.

Kinevane has a highly distinctive stage energy that doesn’t necessarily suit realistic vehicles, but is perfect for a purely theatrical work like this. He creates an easy bond with the audience, asking a man to identify himself. “Jeff” speaks up, and some of the play is then relayed directly to him. But Jeff is every one of us, and the direct and intimate connection between performer and audience is a hallmark of Kinevane’s style. It is one of the reasons for the enthusiastic response he generates.

The pop-culture jokey anecdotes referencing the Kardashians or Victoria Beckham are likeable and funny. The reality TV programme where “Sofie and Trevor” search for their dream home is well played. But these entertaining elements also have the side affect of de-fanging the production. Kinevane works hard to convey the character’s pain, but at the same time is hell bent on cuddling the audience with reassurances. The show keeps scrabbling up the slopes of the sublime but slipping back down, as it repeatedly sabotages its own emotional build.

This is a charming and engaging ninety minutes however, and Kinevane is a virtuoso performer. Whilst a bit more chill would be welcome, basking in his warmth is a delightful experience.

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