THE LIFE AND SORT OF DEATH OF ERIC ARGYLE by Ross Dungan.
Smock Alley Theatre, 7 Lower Exchange Street, County Dublin. To 26 January.
7.30 pm. Runs 90 mins, no interval. Sat 19th Matinée 2:30pm.
Tickets: 00 3531 677 0014 www.smockalley.com
Review: Michael Paye 15 January 2013.
Heart-warming, eloquent, strangely beautiful
Eric Argyle is at the most important meeting of his life or death. The exact reason behind the meeting and subsequent consequences remain unclear, although Eric is quite clearly dead.
And so begins 15th Oak Productions’ THE LIFE AND SORT OF DEATH OF ERIC ARGYL, a witty and touching tragicomedy that tugs the heartstrings and hits the funny bone in all the right ways.
A haphazard arrangement of lamps and furniture make up the staging, allowing for quick scene changes from a shop to a speech therapy office and so forth. The costumes reflect the quaint and sweet nature of the performance, with Eric’s childhood friend wearing mismatching socks and trousers rolled up above his ankles, and Eric’s life-long love wearing simple dresses. We are very much in the trendy and sweet TV fantasies of modern times here. The acoustic live music equally contributes to this atmosphere, along with Eric’s adorable pyjamas.
Certainly, this performance is reminiscent of a SCRUBS episode, albeit with considerably less slapstick. As the various ensemble members take over narrating the plot, or play guitar and mini xylophone, the picture of this man’s entire life unfolds along with narrative interjections while the deceased Eric Argyle looks on with regret, fear, irritation and shame. Other than a scene depicting 14 year old Eric meeting the father of a deceased school boy which lacks emotional credibility and seems rather plastic mainly due to scripting, the fragments that the audience sees give credit to a performance which is full of heart.
Overall, it is a touching and rather sweet story of love and missed opportunities and redemption. If such themes seem clichéd, it doesn’t mean they are not beautiful. Indeed, with Irish theatre seeming to specialise in regretful men and depressing households, THE LIFE AND SORT OF DEATH OF ERIC ARGYLE reminds us that theatre does not have to depress to be worthy of the Irish stage.
Writer: Ross Dungan
Director: Dan Herd
Designer: Colm McNally
Costumes: Emma Gleeson
Composer: Robert Kearns