Sunday, March 12, 2006


O Go My Man, The Door, Birmingham Rep, Friday March 3 2006.

Inside the swish exterior of the Birmingham Rep is a smaller theatre called The Door and Dead Kenny finds himself being escorted through a labrynthine bunker into a room which resembles a small village school assembly hall. The audience are sitting on unallocated wooden-style benches which look down on the single stage to give an 'intimate' feel to circumstances, perhaps a little 'uncomfortable' even to those smug academic couples no doubt more keen on contributing to homeless charities than giving up a bit of personal space to strangers on a night out to the theatre.

This contrast between micro- and macro- politics is central to the concerns of O Go My Man an acerbic romantic comedy which documents the fallout when a maverick TV reporter (Ewan Stewart) returns from wartorn Darfur to his home in Dublin 'and takes a hammer to his life'. Regular references to overseas atrocities aside, Stella Feehily's play (the title is an anagram of 'monogamy', btw) takes its most withering potshots at the modern foibles of Dublin - fickle sex lives; obsession with celebrity and gameshow trivia; navel-fondling modern art; fifteen kinds of latte and an interchangeable succession of Eastern European immigrants in customer service roles (all played by Mossie Smith in scene-stealing form). We can have details of overseas conflict piped into our homes 24/7 through satellite TV saturation, Feehily argues, but still 'the only war we really understand' is the eternal battle of the sexes.

Under Max Stafford-Clark's direction, 'OGMM' is a fast, funky and frequently funny play with a minimalist but impressive production design and strong contributions evenly spread out amongst a fine cast who relish the opportunity to spit out gags and emote powerfully within the same scenes, as well as join in on a group a capella rendition of Neil Young's 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' for the bittersweet climax. Stewart's accent wavers between Scottish and Irish but from the first scene he brings an energy and passion into proceedings that mirrors the way his character acts as a catalyst for the emotional detritus that unfolds. A special mention too for Susan Lynch as an actress who becomes Stewart's lover, a game turn from a name thirtysomething thespian which requires her to parade for most of proceedings in various states of undress or fancy dress.

In concentrating on the characters' private selfishness as set against their charitable public personas the play is ultimately vulnerable to the accusation that it is as superficial and skittish as the world it satirises. Indeed, if you're looking for an insight into the Sudan crisis you'd head for home feeling pretty disappointed - but as a kind of 'Cold Feet' for the Newsnight audience demographic it's a brisk and enjoyable blast you won't want to end.

O Go My Man is an Out Of Joint production which continues in repertory on to Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Guilford and Bolton until the end of the month.


Blogger Dead Kenny said...

If the review has piqued your interest, you might enjoy this interview with Stella Feehily in Time Out.

6:11 PM  

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