The Auld Fella
Bewley’s Cafe Theatre @ Powerscourt
With eyelids as big and blue as shop awnings, zip-up gowns and an “oo-er” repertoire involving snakes and sexual innuendo, Michael Glenn Murphy’s 1960s vaudevillian makes a surprisingly severe father, as strait-laced as his corset. In the last days of Dublin’s Theatre Royal, he lengthily berates his supposedly wayward son (Craig Connolly) backstage in his dressing room, yet he rarely mutes his own theatrics. Under Karl Quinn’s direction, this is a performance about performance, where a 3ft clown is conjured up using contentedly hoary devices, and tall stories spill out, delivered face front, as though an actor’s life blurred into a music hall routine. Sadly, though, this Show in a Bag production feels more like a solo performance, guided by the title character’s meandering self-regard, than a vigorous double act. As the years drift by, measured in his son’s returning visits to dismal Scottish regional tours and finally an Irish nursing home, Quinn lets the theatrical devices fade, and the play is inclined to wallow in the pathos of fading tradition and a proudly asserted depression. Cluttered with anecdotal detail, Glen Murphy’s text leaves its father-son conflict so thinly sketched that it merely seems to grant the Auld Fella’s slow decline a personal audience. It’s what he would have wanted.
Until September 17th