Sure Look It, Fuck It review: Clare Dunne soars in grungy ode to Dublin and home

The show echoes Mark O’Rowe’s dramatic monologues and the spoken word rhythms of Emmet Kirwan’s Dublin Old School

SURE LOOK IT, FUCK IT

★★★★☆
Project Arts Centre, Dublin

"Swearing can bring sudden calmness," performer and writer Clare Dunne declares, encouraging the audience to test this with her, volubly, as she begins her rhyming comic monologue and gets into character. As Missy, newly returned to Dublin from six years in New York, she has plenty to swear about: being broke, jobless, back living with her parents - in short, lost.

The opening has the feel of a stand-up sketch, as anxiety and distraction combine to capsize Missy’s interview for an unpromising office job. Halfway through, her mind drifts and she breaks into a Spanish-dancer-cabaret routine, and from here on, she’s slipping fluidly between fantasy and reality, with a rapid-fire rap delivery.

Accompanied on acoustic guitar by Ailbhe Dunne from the band Mongoose, against a rumbling city soundscape by Ivan Birthistle, Dunne sings torch songs and blues ballads, dancing her way from dejection to inspiration. On a 24-hour journey, through bawdy, irreverent prayers to a drug high, Missy is searching for who she is and what she wants, somewhere she can find "a stable bit of grid".

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A night on the town, funded by cash from an old pal, brings thrills, desires, and finally some – literal – perspective from the top of a crane. As characters encountered earlier in the day gather on the streets as in a dream sequence, this becomes a celebration of Missy’s home city, lent an air of grungy romance by the pale morning light.

From its origins at Electric Picnic and as a work-in-progress at last year's Where We Live festival in Dublin, this show has expanded – with perhaps a few songs too many – to a full production from ThisIsPopBaby. Directed by Tom Creed, it is minimally staged, with delicately atmospheric fluorescent-tube lighting by Sarah Jane Shiels.

While having the distinction of joining that emerging sub-genre of Irish theatre: the Copper Face Jacks musical, this show also echoes Mark O’Rowe’s dramatic monologues and the spoken word rhythms of Emmet Kirwan’s Dublin Old School. Yet its hybrid “spoken word comedy musical” form, uncynical heart and upbeat mood are distinctively Dunne’s own.

Clearly a born improviser, in one scene she hits the dance floor at manic speed, busting through so many moves and styles that Ailbhe protests from the side-lines. “That’s acting,” Dunne says, deadpan. “Oh, I thought you were having a heart attack.”

While Dunne has already made an impact as a fine actor – particularly so in Nina Raine’s Tribes at the Gate Theatre in 2017 – this writing-singing-rapping début offers the additional pleasure of witnessing an artist finding her own voice.

Runs until Saturday, March 23rd