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First Night: Gift Grub

As is the case in bringing a well-loved novel to the big screen, the task of transforming everybody's favourite radio series into a two-and-a-half hour stage show can, I'm sure, make for quite a difficult challenge.

Has it ever been done before? Is it a risk worth taking? Will it please the fans? These are perhaps just some of the questions that comedian and impressionist Mario Rosenstock might have asked himself before deciding to add a whole new dimension to his beloved Gift Grub.

After all, it's been 11 years since the series first aired on Today FM. More than 2,000 skits later, it's become something of an institution, too; a playful and often surreal existence that relies as much on the imagination of its listeners as it does on the top-notch writing and delivery of its creator.

For example, when you listen to Mario impersonating Joe Duffy, you don't imagine the guy dressed in a cheap suit and glasses, pacing his way from one end of a stage to the other, pulling all sorts of comical facial expressions.

You think of the real thing, only ... funnier. And therein lies the problem with Gift Grub Live; a lengthy and often bland affair that tries its best, but ultimately fails to capture the spark of its original -- and better -- format.

Sure, it has its moments, and there's a lot to be admired about the 38-year-old's decision to take on every role without the need of a second cast member, but for the most part, the whole Pat Shortt shtick of picking on random audience members seems a little forced and out of place.

Fair enough, we knew what to expect; that this would, of course, involve a visual element that, until now, very few have witnessed. It's just that, even with the bright yellow suit, the old Manchester United kit and the golfer's glove and cap, Bertie, Roy, and Padraig (or at least their over-the-top caricatures) have rarely felt this flat and uninspired.


There are a few gems in the bag, and Mario's Daniel O'Donnell stepping out of the, erm, "cupboard" to deliver a few 'hits' is a real treat. So too is the finale where Jose Mourinho (did you know that he is, in fact, the Messiah?) performs the brilliant Jose And His Amazing Technicolor Overcoat.

But there's something undeniably disappointing about experiencing the rest of Mario's 'characters' in the flesh. The vocal impressions are spot-on, but -- even with the help of some video segments -- there are no real interesting scenarios or fresh storylines to sink our teeth into.

Posting pictures of Irish celebrities and sports figures to accompany a few pre-recorded voice-overs was a bit of a lazy move, too.

Oh well. Do we pat Mario on the back and reward him for trying? Or do we return to the radio in the morning and remind ourselves what made this whole thing special in the first place? Personally, I think I'll go with the latter.

In the meantime, if someone could please explain why a skit involving a gruff-voiced Glenda Gilson (Mario in a wig and make-up) munching on a doner kebab is supposed to be funny, that would be much appreciated.