Edinburgh Fringe 2019
“A new play with much music, set in Clery’s of Dublin on the very day this iconic department store shuts – for good. Pontius is inside, trying to choose a gift for his estranged daughter whom he hasn’t seen for almost 20 years. He will meet her in an hour.”
Described in the programme as “a new play with much music” the main and only character, Pontius proclaims several times that he hates musicals! Pontius is a vibrant fellow with as much pain in his life as his broad smile and imagination. Before, is written and performed by Pat Kinevane and directed by Jim Culleton, produced by the award-winning theatre company Fishamble: The New Play Company from Ireland.
The large stage space is dark with a narrow framed curtain upstage and minimal props. Kinevane is a powerhouse wearing all black and takes the space with charisma. He tells the story of his daughter and a mismatched love affair that goes through every emotion possible. Pontius clearly loves this daughter and in this ninety minute new play we learn about his life story from youth to today.
This day is momentous for him because he will meet this coming of age long lost daughter. He wants to buy her a special present, and where else to go, but to the famous Clery’s department store in Dublin, “our version of Harrods”. We briefly move through the different sales areas of the store, as Pontius mentions an item here or there, but is so exacting that it takes a while for him to choose a special present – after all this is no ordinary day!
The show is told through song, physical acting and storytelling. Flashbacks, re-enactments, characterizations, and the boundless energy and enthusiasm of Kinevane take us back a few decades to visits to Clery’ with his mother. Sweet moments and poetic descriptions set the scene from dialogue that soon becomes song.
We hear stories about his family, how he got his unusual name, funny stories and fascinating observations about people he knows. Kinevane is a great storyteller and he knows how to perform a song with movement, dance steps and have rapport with the audience.
The story – and Pontius’ life circumstances change as he grows older and all is not so sweet. However he is honest and tells us like it is, in detail. This is when the multitude of songs that intersperse each part of the story serve as a dramaturgical device, to show a lighter side but one that is much needed by Pontius himself, because of his positive attitude to life no matter how hard things become.
The amount of songs in this show does mar the flow of the story and at times it is rather confusing to follow, thus the length of the show could benefit from some streamlining.
Kinevane is at his best when performing intriguing, small and sensitive characterizations of people in his family circle, when the slight insults fly!
Lighting and dark shadows, spot lights and the popular use of smart phone/iPad torches all contribute to the mood of this bitter sweet cabaret storytelling show!