‘My Left Nut’, ‘Penguins’ and ‘Sally Denver Matthews’: the best theatre this week

Growing pains, a New York love story, and frazzled first-time parenthood

Penguins: would you not pay good money to see brought to life the story of two male penguins that met at Central Park Zoo, in New York, and fell in love?

Penguins: would you not pay good money to see brought to life the story of two male penguins that met at Central Park Zoo, in New York, and fell in love?

 

My Left Nut
Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, Powerscourt Centre, Dublin 2; Monday-Saturday 1pm, until April 7th; 8-€12; bewleyscafetheatre.com
In Michael Patrick’s bitter-sweet comic solo performance a young Belfast boy has trouble with his manhood. In 1998, during the tentative steps of the Belfast 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 take the bulge in his trousers to be a sign of his prowess; Patrick interprets it as punishment from God, “tangled up with wanking”, getting equally helpful information from 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 himself is closer to a peace product: his preferred metaphor is a Sega video game. Embarrassment, moreover, has long been his trouble, and here it is transformed into comedy. Like an ultimately unfussy medical procedure, that’s an encouraging reconciliation.

Penguins
Solstice Arts Centre, Navan, Co Meath; today, 2pm and 6pm; €8/€5; solsticeartscentre.ie; Draíocht, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15; Thursday, March 29th, 5pm; €7/€5; draiocht.ie
In the late 1990s two male penguins met at Central Park Zoo, in New York, and fell in love. Sticking together for six years, and entirely devoted to each other, they became broody and began trying to incubate a rock together. Their keepers noticed, and when one day a fertile egg required nurturing, Roy and Silo became adoptive parents – and an international sensation. To them was born a girl penguin, Tango, whom they raised lovingly, giving to the world a heart-warming parable about identity and commitment, much to the cheer of US liberals and to the ire of conservatives. (This, remember, happened during the dismal 2004 re-election of George W Bush, who was once considered the worst American president in history. Innocent times, eh?)

I wish I could tell you that the real story had a happier ending, but intolerance, homelessness and some SeaWorld floozy named Scrappy got in the way. Better to have loved and lost . . . Tell me, though, that you would not pay good money to see this story brought to life. Its creator and director, Paul Bosco McEneaney, has realised the fascinating tale for Cahoots NI, Birmingham Rep and Prime Theatre’s coproduction, now touring its whimsical fusion of theatre and dance for family and school audiences. Waddle along.

Sally Denver Matthews
New Theatre, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. Monday, March 26th-Saturday, March 31st, 7.30pm; €13; thenewtheatre.com
In Gilly O Shea’s new solo performance a young new mother recounts her experiences, sleep deprived, frazzled and distracted but just about able to recall life before baby. When Sally and Stephen share two bottles of Malbec it sets in motion one modest extension to this ongoing project we call humanity. To them is born a girl child, named Heidi, and six months later she is firmly in charge. O Shea’s comedy allows Sally to reflect on a simpler time, when she was her primary concern, and communication with her partner was not a competition. First-time parents, who could be forgiven for thinking this week’s theatre highlights are responding to their situation exclusively, may be intrigued to compare notes. Not that they’ll be able to attend, of course. I mean, what were we expecting?

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