DEATH OF A COMEDIAN
by Owen McCafferty.
Abbey Theatre (Peacock Stage) 26-27 Lower Abbey Street Dublin 1 To 4 April.
Wed-Sat 8pm no performance 3 Apr Mat Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 01 87 87 222.
then Soho Theatre 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE 14 April-17 May 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.15pm Sun 5pm Mat Sat & 23, 30 April, 7, 14 May 3pm.
Audio-described 6 May.
Captioned 5 May.
TICKETS: 020 7478 0100.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
Review: Anne O’Leary 18 March.
Struggles of a comedian part brought to life.
Artistic authenticity is at the heart of this new play (produced by the theatres above, and Belfast’s Lyric) from Owen McCafferty: The universal dilemma of whether an artist should be true to his roots and beliefs, in this case stand-up comedian Steve Johnston (played by Brian Doherty) or succumb to the colossus of the corporate industry under the guidance of agent Doug Wright (Shaun Dingwall).
McCafferty wisely does not favour one calling over the other, but the viewer can decide based on how the career of his very likeable comedian works out. The audience are a very important part of this production. The small capacity venue and a minimalist stage allow for the agent and girlfriend to take their places among the audience for the comedian’s gigs.
They join him afterwards onstage to resume the dialogue. However the audience should be allowed to participate a little more. They laugh and applaud at the comedian’s jokes but there is also canned laughter used, which jars a bit with the live performance.
Doherty brings remarkable depth to the character of the anguished man and the war within him. The play is structured around his Comedian, depending totally on his seamless moves from stand-up gigs to conversation. Both the portrayals of the self-conscious insecure man and his somewhat anarchic stage persona are excellent.
Dingwall, too, packs the right amount of punch as the shark we do not trust as he metaphorically and physically “strips down” the comedian so that he appeals to the widest audience. Katie McGuinness as the Girlfriend is less convincing and her pacing on this night anyway appears too fast.
Another quibble concerns the pyrotechnics, too overbearing and totally unnecessary. They loudly introduce the comedian’s debut on TV but the lighting and the huge change of backdrop is sufficient for this.
Otherwise the minimal set works well, with four small rectangular backdrops denoting the different venues or backstage areas. The play, although short for the complexity of the subject McCafferty is addressing, is a good one, but the production struggles to be equal to it.
Comedian: Brian Doherty.
Girlfriend: Katie McGuinness.
Agent: Shaun Dingwall.
Director: Steve Marmion.
Designer/Costume: Michael Vale.
Lighting: Ben Ormerod.
Sound: Tom Mills.
Assistant director: Sara Joyce.