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Mouse mayhem on night of madness

How mad is mad? And moreover, what exactly is madness? In Hamlet, the prince plays at insanity as subterfuge; in King Lear, it is a reflection of the state of the world, contained in the disintegration of an abdicated king who feels betrayed by his youngest daughter.

In Pan Pan's version, it's the madness of dementia, of illness, and of the decimated boundaries that come with caretaking.

The madness that comes when flashes of the old life show through the cracks of the new reality.

Aedin Cosgrove's set reproduces the apartment of actor Andrew Bennett, who plays Lear. Bennett is joined by Judith Roddy, who plays both Cordelia and the fool. Both are joined at one stage by an actual live mouse, who gives incontrovertible proof to the WC Field's dictum never to work with animals and children.


The mouse performs with brio, rolling energetically about the floor in its clear plastic exercise ball, an entirely unselfconscious performance that completely captivates the audience.

It is a canny choice on the part of director Gavin Quinn. However: the scene-stealing rodent makes its appearance just when we need a break from the relentless shifting and changing that Bennett's erratic behaviour brings to the piece.

That behaviour is in fact the essence of the show, and we are constantly thrown off balance, not only due to the moments of lucidity on Bennett's part, but also due to the moments of sheer hysteria and desperation on Roddy's.

Fragments from the Shakespeare play are interspersed with actions such as the changing of Bennett's adult nappy, getting stoned and watching Spongebob Squarepants. The elegance of the text wars -- with the sheer chaos and occasional revulsion of the contemporary characters -- adds yet another layer of discomfort to the madness.

Is it really madness? Dementia is a word that's thrown around with abandon these days, as a blanket term for a sort of ageing that is often at least as hard on the loved ones as on the sufferer himself. It feels like that is one of the many themes that has been thrown into the sitting room of Bennett's apartment and let roll around on the floor, like the mouse.

The result is sad, often unpleasant and exhausting, with those flashes of laughter and peace to cause one to hope, foolishly, that things could be the same again.

Runs until October 14