Gutter snipes, a testy time and Tilda Swinton in a cheesecloth

The latest new shows from this year’s Dublin Fringe Festival

Michael Patrick’s My Left Nut

Michael Patrick’s My Left Nut

 

My Left Nut
Bewley’s Café Theatre, Powerscourt Townhouse
★★★★

In Michael Patrick’s bittersweet comic solo performance, a young Belfast boy is having trouble with his manhood. In 1998, during the tentative steps of the Good Friday Agreement, the five-year-old’s father passes away, leaving an absence he comes to rue keenly in adolescence, when his left testicle inflates to the size of a grapefruit. In whom can a self-conscious teenager confide?

Written with his director Oisín Kearney, Patrick’s autobiographical coming-of-age tale strives for independence and intimacy through comedy, protected by a very sturdy solo-show formula, made more vulnerable with confessions of body horror and bereavement.

Patrick’s gang of mates, as charmingly sympathetic and well-informed as he is, take the bulge in his trousers to be a sign of his prowess. For his part, Patrick interprets it as punishment from God, “tangled up with wanking”. Unable to confide in his stoic mother he relies on excruciating discoveries via a dial-up internet connection.

The peace process would be a tempting metaphor to explore shifting authority and unguarded dialogue, but Patrick, you feel, is closer to a peace product: his preferred metaphor is a Sega video game.

Embarrassment, moreover, has been his trouble, now transformed to the source of his comedy. Like an ultimately unfussy procedure, that’s an encouraging reconciliation. - Peter Crawley
Runs until Sept 23

Gladys and the Gutter Stars
Smock Alley Theatre
★★★★

Gladys and the Gutter Stars
Gladys and the Gutter Stars

Can a band live on without their front-woman? In Cameron Macaulay and Rachel Gleeson’s wry comedy with songs, both are musicians debuting new material for a podcast. Their painful split from demented lead singer Gladys, of course, is unresolved.

Here, bitterness is barely suppressed under the polite exchanges of an interview. Gleeson sours into a scowl as Cameron gives an intelligible but winding answer for why he struggles with Arts Council applications. In turn, she talks seriously about spirituality and Kanye West.

Shane Daniel Byrne’s charming interviewer deals out thoughtful questions about imagery and lyrics, but his guests haven’t reflected much on a track-list that sounds like a string of second thoughts (Why Am I with You?, Pull Up the Blind, Betrayal).

The surreal arrival of Gladys herself rouses deeper anxieties. This could easily have been a vapid defence for naval-gazers but instead we get something more discreet, the trudge of a generation asked to work for free. With sparks of rock’n’roll, the Gutter Stars carry on. - Chris McCormack
Runs until Sept 17

The Dust We Raised
Project Arts Centre
★★★★

The Dust We Raised
The Dust We Raised

Scientific discovery has improved our lives, but how much is too much? Choreographer Luke Murphy’s trio suggests that we are at a tipping point. Dancer Emily Terndrup lists influential sci-fi movies, and her description of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, against a video of black-and-white footage of goldfish-bowl space helmets, is quaintly off the mark. Nowadays, through discoveries like Crispr, fiction is fact and the possibility to control human identity and destiny is real. Furthermore, genetic manipulation and disease eradication isn’t driven by idealism, but cold board-table strategies and contested patents.

Murphy, Terndrup and Timothy Bartlett literally throw themselves at these dilemmas. Their physical struggle – flailing limbs and bodies flung across the floor – is exaggerated by their close proximity to the audience seated within a white-sheet-rectangle onstage. However alarming some of the images – Murphy is abandoned on his head upside-down in a bucket; a clear plastic enclosure is stapled around Terndrup – the polemic is always held in check. - Michael Seaver
Runs until Sept 14

MurderTown
The New Theatre
★★★

Erin McGathy in Murder Town
Erin McGathy in Murder Town

The social darling and rising oncologist Blythe Lund has been found bludgeoned to death, in a McDonald’s car park, beside a swan-shaped piñata. As Det Linda Quartermain explains it, in Katherine-Hepburn-worthy screwball tones, everybody is a suspect: from Blythe’s meathead ex-boyfriend Sterling Mince and simpering best frenemy Emory Dell to the most outrageously conceived character, real-life film star Tilda Swinton.

Welcome to Los Alamos, in California’s sleepy wine country, where comic performer Erin McGathy’s preference is for vintage hardboiled detective fiction. Guided by a briskly ironic treatment of its conventions and madcap marginalia, you could call the entertaining display an exercise in goofball noir. Quartermain is both the shamus and femme fatale rolled into one: “Give me a nice mystery with a good set of clues,” she says lustily, while pleasingly oblivious to the most obvious examples.

McGathy’s speciality is in character vignettes, constructing arch monologues with room to improvise, although the audience could be more merrily and unhesitantly involved. Directed by Tara Flynn, it’s a no-frills production, crying out for better lighting, but McGathy has an illuminating way with her comedy. Discovered at home, Swinton, is “a praying mantis made of moonlight, wearing nothing but cheesecloth . . . painting.”

Whatever about the case, she’s certainly solved Tilda’s mystery. - Peter Crawley
Runs until Sept 16th

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