Review: Dublin Oldschool – Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Thursday August 11 2016

Three Stars

 

The capacity to operate live performance by remote control is an idea whose time is yet to come. Audiences to this two-hander, which arrives on the fringe following success in its native Dublin, may find themselves longing for the development of such technology to be brought forward. The play packs so much into its 60-minute running time that it inspires a gnawing desire to put the action on pause, to recap and, most crucially, to vary the decibel levels.

Not that there isn’t much to admire about the play, written by Emmet Kirwan, who also stars, alongside Ian Lloyd Anderson. It is a several-days headlong rush through the life of a young Dubliner, Jason, who lives from one drug-fuelled rave to the next, in the full knowledge that his almost permanent high can’t last much longer. “I’ll give it up when I’m 32. No, 33: the age of Christ.”

In outline the piece recalls Conor McPherson’s monologue, Rum and Vodka, though that tale’s unhappily inebriated protagonist would not find favour with Jason and his crowd, who avoid the “alcohol-only brigade” at all costs.

Ian Lloyd Anderson (Daniel), Emmet Kirwan (Jason). Dublin Oldsch

Ian Lloyd Anderson (Daniel) and Emmet Kirwan (Jason)

Of the 17 characters who populate the play, some, including Jason’s homeless, drug-addicted brother Daniel, are roundly, sympathetically drawn, while others get lost in the dense thicket of the writing: a maddening mix of styles, including spoken word and rap, with some of the turn-of-phrase really hitting home and other passages cluttered to the point of inanity. Microphones are deployed in Phillip McMahon’s production for emphasis, but these prove largely surplus to requirements in the confined space of Pleasance Beside.

 

It’s a pity there’s so much extraneous verbiage because both Kirwan and Anderson are versatile, energetic performers, and there are some real flashes of inspiration in the script, including the mysterious doppelganger Jason repeatedly encounters in his ride on the “camel train” of raves and relentless quest for the next buzz. Kirwan is clearly a talent to watch, with a surfeit of ideas, some of which he should learn to leave on the cutting room floor.

 

Box office: 0131 556 6550, to Aug 28

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