Sunday, 8 September 2013

I'll Go On

Royal Lyceum Theatre
Five stars
A spotlight shines on a bowler-hatted man stood in the corner of the 
stage. He speaks to the audience directly, peels a banana and watches 
another spotlight beside him, waiting for the show to begin. Barry 
McGovern's opening gambit in his solo stage adaptation of Samuel 
Beckett's trilogy of novels, Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnameable, is 
pure vaudeville. When the curtain rises, McGovern is tucked into a 
gravestone grey room before launching into what are revealed as a 
series of profoundly funny comic routines that lifts Beckett's prose 
off the page for a deeply entertaining eighty-five minute tour de force.

The comedy is most evident in Molloy, as the ageing some-time vagrant 
now living with his mother regales us through the incident and colour 
of his day with deadpan guilelessness. So obsessive is Molly's 
description of how to cope with juggling stones between pockets that it 
appears borderline OCD before he realises the pointlessness of his 
activities. Malone Dies finds our hero laid out on a slab waiting to 
expire. This too becomes a hilarious litany of life and death which is 
delivered with a sense of timing many Fringe comedians could learn much 
from.

Only in the final part of Colm O Briain's production do things get 
really serious, as McGovern, on his knees and shirtless, punctures the 
mood with a relentless monologue on identity, reinvention, the nature 
of existence and the need to find meaning, even as you become narrator 
of your own fiction. It is twenty-seven years since McGovern first 
performed I'll Go On at Edinburgh's Assembly Rooms. Age has brought an 
even greater understanding of this mighty piece of existential music 
hall.

The Herald, August 27th 2013

ends

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