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Tom's no rookie when he takes to the stage

THE HOWIE LEE should have stayed at home. Looked after his little brother, maybe. Instead, he's on the floor of a pub with 'the Avalanche' in her white ski pants.

 Who knows where the Rookie Lee is? Howie, Peaches and Ollie gave him an awful hiding. The lads reckon he was responsible for infecting Ollie's mattress with scabies. "Which means he infected the boys," explained the Howie earlier that evening. "Which means we're after him, the handsome c***."

Funny then, that all this drama – every sweat-soaked second of chaos, humour and violence, should be played out by one man in a T-shirt and jeans.

Red T-shirt for the Howie (the "goer"), blue T-shirt for the Rookie (the ladies' man). Tom Vaughan-Lawlor is well able for the challenge.

An inner-city tragedy, disguised as an amusing revenge yarn, Mark O'Rowe's Howie the Rookie used to involve two actors, but O'Rowe has reworked his play, giving Vaughan-Lawlor (better known to fans of RTE's Love/Hate as Nidge) the full 80 minutes to flex his muscles.


And it's certainly a physical performance, Vaughan-Lawlor approaching every scene as though it were a rigorous workout.

It's an astonishing feat. All sketchy glances, heated dialogue and comical/ violent outbursts, Vaughan-Lawlor takes O'Rowe's script (strong in language yet a tad patchy, plot-wise) and draws out a map of late-Nineties Dublin and its various thugs, dives and dysfunctional characters without the use of a single prop.

Not a million miles from his Love/Hate gig, this most agile of performers loses himself completely, first as a hopeless scumbag with a conscience (Howie), then as an itchy loner in big trouble (Rookie). As a one-man show, it's captivating. As a lesson in stage acting, it's terrifying. On the box, Vaughan-Lawlor is a damn fine actor. Here on the stage, he is astounding. HHHHI

Running until July 6.