FringeReview Scotland 2017
Tino, son of a sharp tongue and a waster of a father, is down on his luck. His brother having finally completed suicide, his father a distant memory and his mother gone as well he finds himself having to exist in his head and on the streets. Both are tough places to visit and he is resides stuck in both. We are taken through his story, his family’s history and sharp wry observations of the community from which he escaped in Cork, the new one in which he is stuck until he reveals his final fate. It comes as a shock with awe at the complete performance we have seen that elicits sympathy down with the curtain and a renewed sense of understanding with the world.
The opening is in darkness and the haunting music of Rudolf Valentino’s age which seems far from the streets of Dublin. We then meet the man whose legend is laid out, not to rest but attest to our prejudice as it guides us from the perches on which we may judge to the level on which we are challenged to understand.
This is a complex piece of theatre which employs every part of a stage, each trick of the silent era – the voiceover, the music, the mime, the explanative boards – and delivers unto us – Tino. Born into a family where his dad loved the tragic film star, alongside a brother who was gay, Tino has an harsh upbringing alongside a single mammy who has the sharpest of tongues, the hardest of cracks and the craic to keep you focussed on your teenage years as simply being desperate for love.
This beginning forms his future as we watch and hear of his brother’s inability to get the suicide thing right and he seems to falter at the marriage thing before he finds he has to rest in Merlot and avoid the committals. Alcoholic revelry and mental torment go hand in hand as he tries hard to survive.
Writer/performer Pat Kinevane has received so much praise for this, it is hard to find a sentence that does it justice; someone has stolen all my superlatives. Kinevane presents with dignity and joy a man of means who has lost his head in a minefield of tragedy but has still got his standards. Those standards are tremendously important to him and we have a performance that ought to be compulsory viewing for all aspiring actors; it is compulsive viewing.
Kinevane dances, entrances, imbibes, relieves the tension with an old mental health joke, gives us black humour, wry observation, heart breaking tragedy and utter selflessness at every turn. When you have laughed, it is time to cry, when it is safe, it is time for challenge. Highlights included asking the audience who were on anti depressants and then giving them the approval and telling them how proud he was of their honesty; then telling them what they knew – people around them are not ready for such honesty. It gave us an endorsement and opened us up to what Tino understands – suffering and the double indemnity of recovery.
Kinevane has a tremendous presence onstage as he talks to his audience, takes risks and delivers humour and characters that allow us to feel part of it – I know cos I was one of the three talked to. It was a smart move as it allowed Tino to talk to real voices thus bridging that gap between audience and performer. It was much less than threatening but excitedly comforting in the approach, delivery and effect.
The writing was sharp, the direction wonderful, the use of all the theatre arts tremendous including the voiceover babble that suggested what was going on in his head and made us more in awe of his ability to focus. The movement was grace itself, giving us Valentino on a wet Monday in Paisley – transcendental so it was.
The biggest compliment I can share, was given to me as I left, my partner turning to me and saying, “take me to more like that!” Six words and within it, an audience member told me more than all my years of watching and criticising could capture.
This was both entertaining and effective. Kinevane gives the dishevelled, the dignity stripped in doorways and alleyways, thus outrageous fortune can be faced and the enemy kept at bay. It made me question the way we treat people and though I may have been an open goal for such a message, and there seemed to be plenty in the audience who were also there because of their experiences, it was a theatrical tour de force.
This worked because it was a theatre piece. As a message, it was inspirational; as a piece of theatre it was its equal and showed why theatre is a vibrant voice in the creative arts and needs to remind itself now and again that the days of the tablet are nice, but the years of the theatre are still to stretch long ahead.
There are 2 other plays in this trilogy. I shall be begging, borrowing, thieving so I shall to be back as Donal once again!