Review: Breaking Dad

The new Ross O’Carroll-Kelly play provides an evening of good, not-so-clean fun and unapologetically slapstick humour

Rory Nolan as rugby jock Ross O’Carroll-Kelly

Rory Nolan as rugby jock Ross O’Carroll-Kelly


Gaiety Theatre, Dublin

Whether you’re a fan of the Ross O’Carroll-Kelly books, columns and plays, or the name means nothing to you at all, Paul Howard’s latest comedy will have you laughing out loud for two hours. It follows his two previous plays – The Last Days of the Celtic Tiger, and Between Foxrock and a Hard Place – starring the fictitious rugby jock, played by Rory Nolan.

“You either love him or you hate him,” is the overheard evaluation of one audience member during the interval. Actually, you’ll love him because he’s so straightforwardly detestable: a rich, smug, obnoxious adulterer who forever prides himself on half-imagined feats in his bygone years as a schoolboy rugby kicker for Castlerock College. What’s, like, not to like, roysh?

Here we meet the future Rossmeister in 2022, fortysomething with a fully formed pot belly, and still a juvenile jock. He still dons his dubes and several stiff-collared rugby jerseys in unbecoming garish shades, and wears the constant expression of someone struggling to divide an odd number by an even one. He might not be the “fastest crayon in the box”, but he’s a lovable rogue, really.

When Ross’s teenage daughter, Honor (wonderfully overplayed by Caoimhe O’Malley), brings new boyfriend Traoloch home, all hell breaks loose. While his daughter falls rapidly in love, his bimbo wife, Sorcha (a brilliant Lisa Lambe), parades around the stage with her sparkly phone and her laptop like a wind-up doll, indifferent to anything other than her new job as ambassador to the UN and the possibility of becoming Ireland’s next president.

The roles for each character are equally dealt, and the south Dublin accents are given full over-inflation of the vowels, adding extra mirth. Laurence Kinlan, as Ross’s son Ronan, clearly enjoys overcooking his inner-city style, to the point where his grandfather, Charles (slickly played by Philip O’Sullivan), now a director of elections for Fianna Fáil, eventually succumbs to unstoppable laughter during a conversation with him about the “squirdle” he managed to tame as a boy.

Everything from Catherine Fay’s costume design and Paul O’Mahony’s set is clever and comedic, and the performances are nailed by the talented cast: all the ingredients, then, for an evening of good, not-so-clean fun and unapologetically slapstick humour. The question of what the future might bring remains something of a secondary objective to the writer. In terms of the story’s moral (if there is one), things appear to be all too familiar to muster any hope. Until May 17

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