Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Biddy O’Loughlin tells the tale of her dysfunctional Irish upbringing in the remote desert town of Alice Springs. Her voyage of self-discover in Ireland is a bitter-sweet one though. It’s a love story of an Irish identity crisis, told with panache… and the odd song and limerick.
A young woman in a modest black dress enters a small stage where a lone guitar leans against the back wall. She looks straight at the audience and gently delivers her life’s story of growing up in an Irish family in the desert town of Alice Springs.
The simple delivery is perfectly placed and paced for her audience, with an easy charm which never descends to a stereotype of Irish blarney but does have the seductive powers of an Irish yarn. However our narrator is not as sweet as she first appears: unexpected shards of a sharp humour and sly worldiness undercut the lyrical prose, delighting the audience and bypassing any pitfalls of sentimentality.
We learn about her alcohol fuelled catholic family and the pressures and influence on her from the creed of original sin to which she gives a smart put down. Her humour is edgy at times: she remarks for instance on how she was ignored, ‘…the priests didn’t even molest me…’
Alice Springs is sharply sketched out with a series of characters and situations which give us more insight into the place she wants to leave. She describes in detail trying to buy fast food with her drunk hippy friends for two indigenous women who are not allowed in the café. The security woman is even fleshed out, so we understand her bitter sweet situation. The town’s record for lesbians, graduates and knife crime also spur many witty thoughts from our narrator.
The town becomes an island in the baking desert, where this fair skinned girl finds herself and longs for the coolness of the emerald isle. So she leaves only to discover that despite her Irish name, family and upbringing she is just a ‘plastic paddy’ to the residents of Ireland.
Occasionally she delivers lines directly to a member of the audience: she says she wants an Irish passport so needs to get married to an Irish man – an EU passport will do, she adds – and looks to a man in the audience to see if he’ll oblige, much to the amusement of the rest of us onlookers. This coquettish behaviour is handled lightly and adds to her irresistible charm.
The show is infused with guitar accompanied songs and poems she has written. These departures were not always as strong or skilful as her prose. Her strength is definitely in the direct delivery of her story.
This newcomer is definitely one to look out for, but watch out: Biddy will charm your socks off and then steal your shoes.