Theatre: Legendary ‘Godfather of Gay’ DJ Tonie Walsh takes to the stage

Theatre highlights: DJ turned activist Tonie Walsh introduces himself to the theatre; while Ken Rogan’s inspired debut play tells the oldest story in the freshest way

The spinning gods of desire and anger: Daithí Mac Suibhne  in Hero, by Ken Rogan, directed by Amilia Stewart, at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre

The spinning gods of desire and anger: Daithí Mac Suibhne in Hero, by Ken Rogan, directed by Amilia Stewart, at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre

 

I AM TONIE WALSH
Project Arts Centre, Dublin. Previews Nov 27 Opens Nov 28-Dec 1. 7.30pm (Fri-Sat 7pm) €15-€20 projectartscentre.ie
More than a decade ago – but, really, who’s keeping count? – the director Phillip McMahon and a gathering supernova named Panti Bliss conspired to put on a show together. In These Shoes was an acidly funny first instalment of Panti’s autobiography, and as she rose from an underground sensation to a national treasure, that story was elaborated and extended across successive stage shows. There were other factors that facilitated her ascension to become the Queen of Ireland, an accidental activist and an international spokesperson, but for some, that stage was a telling introduction.

McMahon’s company, THISISPOPBABY, is not campaigning to install a King of Ireland, but it is offering the platform of theatre to Tonie Walsh, the “Godfather of Gay”. The legendary DJ, club impresario and activist is the architect behind innumerable wild nights, from the celebrated Flikkers and Elevator to H.A.M., parties that stirred a community and brought people together. Parties have always been political, and Walsh’s gravitation towards housing rights, women’s right and queer rights brought him to stand for election at a local and national level. Whether this show is a tribute or a launchpad to something else remains to be seen, but, as the title suggests, allow these groundbreaking collaborators to make the introduction.

HERO
Bewley’s Café Theatre, Dublin. Until Dec 1 1pm €8-€12 bewleyscafetheatre.com
A distinguished warrior on the football pitch, but lost at sea in matters of the heart, the hero of Ken Rogan’s debut play is glancingly aware of his ancient antecedents, men and myths who journeyed far for love and war. “Hector,” he chances, attempting to impress one unattainable woman. “Priam… Nissan?” It’s all Greek to him. Rogan subtly matches a contemporary posture with the inspiration of epic poetry, allowing classic echoes in Smithy’s journey, while still keeping it all recognisably real. Commanding and believably blunt, Daithí Mac Suibhne will complain of “blue balls of the lips” when struck dumb or air grievances about “being cock-blocked by a fucking ghost” when abandoned and romantically adrift.

That helps to give the oldest tale the freshest expression possible, immeasurably assisted by Amelia Stewart’s direction and Naomi Faughnan’s effective design, alive to both braggadocio, tenderness and vulnerability. Smithy, of course, reels from any suggestion of weakness but becomes a slave to his passion, the sulking corner of a love triangle, seething with rage. Few short plays can contain so much so stealthily, from grand mythic references to the private devastation of seeing a fateful Facebook status update, and, more satisfyingly, the suggestion that all these impossible hero narratives – no less than the spinning gods of desire and anger – are an inheritance that will always be with us.

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