Thursday, 26 January 2017

Theatre review: Dublin Oldschool

Inspired by a real-life encounter that sounds full of more coincidences that anything in the play itself, Emmet Kirwan writes and performs Dublin Oldschool, the story of a drug-fuelled Bank Holiday weekend during a heatwave. Kirwan plays Jason, a record shop employee in his late twenties who holds onto the hope of becoming a DJ, and is prone to letting people take advantage of him on the promise of helping with this career change. This particular weekend he's been told he can do a set if he takes care of a visiting superstar DJ's "entertainment" needs, but that's just one of a series of incidents as he keeps trying different drugs to keep him from actually having to go home. Over the three days he keeps bumping into a homeless heroin addict: His older brother Daniel, who's returned to Dublin after several years missing.

Joining Kirwan on stage is Ian Lloyd Anderson as Daniel, and doubling up as a couple of dozen other characters who crop up over the course of the story.

So Dublin Oldschool reminded me of many monologues written by actors to perform themselves, except Kirwan has been a bit more generous, keeping the frantic narration and the heart of the story for himself, but giving the scene-stealing character-swapping to his co-star, who's very good (although where does the visual cliché of holding one palm on the chest to represent "I am playing a woman now" come from? It's ubiquitous.) It doesn't hurt that I had a pretty instant crush on Anderson, a ginger otter whose baggy trackie bottoms drop at one point to reveal graphically tight boxers*.

Director Phillip McMahon has let Kirwan and Anderson loose energetically, without letting the action feel indulgent, but despite a variety of styles that go from prose to verse to outright rap sections, I never felt too invested in Jason's partying and mishaps - I guess it's both something that's never been part of my own life, and a subject a lot of other plays like this have taken on. More interesting are the meetings - which a late twist suggests might be imaginary - between the brothers, as Daniel's addiction and Jason's party drugs are contrasted along with the different attitudes to something essentially similar. This never became a classic for me but it's well-performed with a mix of funny and moving moments.

Dublin Oldschool by Emmet Kirwan is booking until the 31st of January at the National Theatre's Dorfman.

Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes straight through.

Photo credit: Ros Kavanagh.

*I'm just saying, unless there was padding involved, if he ever feels like doing an onstage show-and-tell there's a Schlong From Far Away Award with his name on it.

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