Dublin Fringe reviews: Penny Arcade leaves us longing for more

'Hope Hunt'/'Wrongheaded' double bill dissects effects of patriarchy as 'Megalomaniac' shows vaulting ambition

Penny Arcade’s ‘Longing Lasts Longer’ is a kick-ass rejection of consumerism, celebrity culture and cupcakes

Penny Arcade’s ‘Longing Lasts Longer’ is a kick-ass rejection of consumerism, celebrity culture and cupcakes

 

LONGING LASTS LONGER ★★★★
Peacock Stage, Abbey Theatre
“This is not cabaret,” Penny Arcade declares as she skips, strides and shimmies around the Peacock stage. “Not performance art. Not stand-up.” Nor is it storytelling, satire or self-help. But Longing Lasts Longer is unquestionably a one-woman show because Penny Arcade is a one-off. She ran away from her dysfunctional Italian-American family at 13, was locked up by the nuns for a while, then forged a career as one of New York’s earliest performance artists, hanging out with Andy Warhol and Quentin Crisp. Now 66 (“Don’t applaud! It just means I didn’t die”), she is as alternative as ever. Her message is simple: the way to go is your own way. Her script is a kick-ass rejection of consumerism, celebrity culture and cupcakes. The music is great. It’s charming and it’s fun. Catch her while you can.
Ends September 16th
Arminta Wallace

GEORGE BUSH AND CHILDREN ★★★
Project Arts Centre, Cube
The contemporary talk show has often been compared to a circus, but writer and director Dick Walsh goes one further by transforming the genre into a compelling theatre piece. Using a text consisting of excerpts of conversation transcribed from real-life chat shows, Walsh’s cast – Oddie Braddell, Shane Connolly, Fionnuala Flaherty and Gráinne Hallahan – verbally joust with each other on a spare stage, while performing a series of physical contortions. The combination of abstract movement and realist dialogue makes for an interesting set-up, while the incessant flow of seemingly random topics – from daft rants about Speedos and vibrators to ruminations on abortion, death and the afterlife – gradually creates an atmosphere both absurd and foreboding, aided by Eoghan Carrick’s fine lighting. With the performers seamlessly shifting demeanour to suit the ever-changing mood, what could have been a gimmick ends up an absorbing exercise. And if you’re wondering about the title, it’s as arbitrary as the narrative.
Ends September 17th
Mick Heaney

HOPE HUNT/WRONGHEADED ★★★★
Project Arts Centre, Cube
Oona Doherty’s hopeful hunt is for the redemption of the white disadvantaged male. Her initial portrayal – outside and inside the theatre – is underpinned by latent aggression: brutal and flailing physicality is matched by hard consonants, spat out or hacked up in verbal loops of laddish catchphrases. But vulnerability is always below the surface: offence is defence. Eventually white replaces black costume, urban beats dissolve to sacred choral music and the movement is slowed and softened, and the deconstruction and redemption are complete.

In Wrongheaded, Liz Roche uses the Eighth Amendment debate to interrogate broader insidious effects of patriarchy. Still rooted in the individual woman versus the male-dominated state, her artistic touchstone – a commissioned poem by Elaine Feeney – draws physical responses that are immediate as gesture mirrored word. More persuasive are the movement’s overall matching of the tone of desperation and repression, also succinctly captured in Mary Wycherly’s projected film.
Ends September 16th
Michael Seaver

BREAKS ★★
Smock Alley Boys School
This is a play about the oppression of women, yet one wonders why the story of Gesche Gottfried, the 19th-century German arsenic poisoner who was executed in Bremen, presented itself – now, with contemporary feminism fizzing – as the appropriate mechanic with which to engineer a play about sexism. It does not work, unfortunately, although the set is inventive, and the cast certainly commits.

Loudly stating the mantras and cliches of sexism for prolonged periods throughout mistakes repetition for insight, and in the absence of coherence and any truly emotional connection with the story, there are moments of hamminess. I could have sworn there was a shared fit of giggles at one point, which is almost unforgivable in a production that takes itself so seriously. I hope I’m wrong about that.

It is certainly heartening to see a group of young theatre-makers experimenting, trying out new things, and going for it. That’s what Fringe is for, after all. But perhaps in reaching into the German past, they might realise what they are trying to say is not actually that far away, and that their own voices exist to say it.
Ends September 18th
Una Mullally

MEGALOMANIAC ★★★
Rita Kelly Theatre, Coombe Hospital
This augmented three-hander begins busily in a Dublin pharmacist. Towards the rear, within a mobile white box that becomes many things, we find a Palestinian immigrant named Noor. Speaking lines compiled by Maud Hendricks from interviews with a Coombe resident, Iman Aoun makes an irresistibly warm presence of the protagonist. Indeed, so welcoming is the opening half of this show from Outlandish Theatre Platform that it proves nearly possible to forgive the mild insistence on audience participation. (No forgiveness is required for the distribution of tasty Middle-Eastern sweetmeats.) The later sections of Megalomaniac, which address conflict and dislocation, are necessarily more uncomfortable. Unfortunately they are also less focused. The projections of quarrelling ants, the re-enactments of perilous Mediterranean crossings and the duologues on how love breeds hate make their points imaginatively, but they also draw us away from the compelling voice at the play’s centre. There are worse sins than vaulting ambition. This remains a touching show that, plucking a quote from the text, could equally have been titled: “Broken English, broken heart”.
Ends September 17th
Donald Clarke

AGE OF TRANSITION ★★★
Peacock Stage, Abbey Theatre
Aoife McAtamney’s dance and music piece is neither one thing nor the other, and rather beautifully so. Leading three musicians and three dancers with her stunning voice as the soundtrack to their compelling moves, Age Of Transition holds its arms aloft, leaving you wonder whether it’s reaching for something or asking to be noticed. Either way, the effect is soothing.

The choreography, by Berlin troupe Sweetie Sit Down, glides between individual displays of subtlety and nuance, arms turned to exoskeletons pulsing like waves, and then coming together, rather touchingly, and moving in unison. McAtamney’s songs, performed excellently, include Happening, a tune so perfectly complete that you feel as if you’ve known it forever.

As the dancers move across the stage almost like the shadow on a sundial, there is a sense of time passing, of transition occurring – perhaps from dawn to dusk, but this is a piece that rests nicely in the ambiguity of twilight.
Ends September 16th
Una Mullally

The Tiger Fringe festival in Dublin runs until September 25th. fringefest.com. Reviews continue daily through the festival at irishtimes.com

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