Fringe festival: to Hell and back
As it is, a pacy start (and end, when it is finally in sight) is let down by a sagging middle weighed down by superfluous storylines.
– Emma Somers
The Lir ****
The set is cluttered with arcane instruments and vintage bric-a-brac, but Little John Nee’s one-man show is marked by an economy of musical score and storytelling style, as he sketches an offbeat portrait of Donegal life. The plot, such as it is, concerns the eponymous handyman who falls for a bohemian Belfast artist, living in her late father’s improbably dry-docked boat, while competing for with attentions of a dastardly ex-cop. The story takes second place to mood and tone, however. Nee conjures up an atmospheric soundtrack, his array of ukuleles, melodicas and accordions amplified by imaginative audio techniques, audience interactivity and his own bluesy vocals. The understated monologue is similarly characterised by evocative vignettes, distinctive wit and wry references to political foibles. Imagine Garrison Keillor relocating to Ulster’s northwest in the company of Tom Waits and D’Unbelievables and you get an idea of Nee’s singularly enjoyable production.
– Mick Heaney
The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle
The Lir ***
Mismatched lamps illuminate a space filled with retro furniture. Attractive twentysomethings play folky songs on their guitars. You could be in a Dublin 8 café. But you’re not; you’re in limbo. The Life And Sort Of Death Of Eric Argyle is a quirky (it would be impossible to review it without mentioning the Q word) tale of a recently deceased 58-year-old who is forced to look back on the events and decisions that led to there being only two mourners at his funeral.
The cast of eight are energetic and enthusiastic, whizzing through their multiple roles with humour and zeal. Nobody seems to mind that old, irascible Eric has a strong country accent while his younger self has a suburban drawl – we’re in a zany afterlife, remember, it’s not supposed to make sense. At times, though, one wishes they would all stop shouting writer Ross Dungan’s zingy one-liners at each other and allow us, the audience, to fill in the gaps for ourselves.
– Lynn Enright
Lauren White Goes on a Date
New Theatre ***
The audience makes all the decisions for her; choosing potential outfits, music and locations. We also interview the two shortlisted candidates (chosen from a dating website) when they arrive in the theatre.
It’s very entertaining with much humour coming from the audience participation. No two performances will be the same, but Lauren is charismatic enough to take on any audience. Why is she single? Why is anyone: unrealistic expectations from reading novels and bad luck.
Don’t expect a traditional play with a set, a plot or even a script. It’s more of an interesting online-dating experiment than any deeper comment on it. The search for love in the digital age is given a theatrical twist and it’s great fun.
– Meadhbh McHugh