Friday, 31 January 2014

REVIEW: Stand Up Man: C21 Theatre Company

Much has been made of Tim McGarry's involvement in Stand Up Man.  Being a comedian you would expect that it is Tim himself who is the Stand Up Man Thaddeus McGuinn but this role was filled by Nick Hardin.

But Thaddeus is not a funny man, well not anymore. He's over stressed, under paid and unappreciated. Well that's how he feels anyway. His wife of 26 years Maggie (Cathy Brennan-Bradley) is an alcoholic, suffering from OCD and is severely depressed.  And it's all his fault.

A sparky script from American playwright Derek Murphy hinges on Thaddeus' inability to see what is right in front of his eyes.  He has damaged his relationships with his wife and his son with his selfish behaviour and insular personality. They don't understand how much he has forfeited to save them, how important it was for him to have given Buster his name, how much Maggie should appreciate him.

Tim McGarry's portrayal of Thaddeus' alter ego, the Father McGuinn he was meant to be, is both irreverent and refreshing.  His asides in the conversation add just the right amount of lightness to lift what is a very dark comedy.  While Tim doesn't have a lot to do, his part is the most essential, balancing the darkness of the script with just enough humour to ensure the audience don't leave in tears.

Nick Hardin as Thaddeus, is spiteful and selfish as the character demands.  We never really believe that he loves Maggie.  Even as he realises what he has lost, his own self obsession demands his attention.  His need to be funny supercedes every issue, whether forgetting his wedding anniversary, going to his son's school or a death in the family.

Kevin Patrick Keenan is a bright young actor and his portrayal of Buster grew on me throughout the second half. Buster is a difficult role to play. He is both adult and child, full of hatred for his father and love for his mother. His personality is a perfect mix of Thaddeus and Maggie, having inherited all his parents worst traits.

Cathy Brennan-Bradley as Maggie is a desperate and conflicted alcoholic.  I wasn't sure whether I enjoyed this character or not. As a poor downtrodden women, a kept wife and an attention seeker I felt the underhand duplicity of her personality from the start. As we got to know Thaddeus, maybe we understood why.  But I spent the whole first half just wanting her to leave him, to punch him and to show some balls.

While it seemed the pace was a little slow at times, not in keeping with the snappy writing, the show ticked along nicely, particularly in the second half when Buster was introduced.  An interesting relationship developed between father and son and I found myself more and more engaged with Keenan's physical characterisation, his hands and the way he held himself reflecting his mood.

I found the ending perplexing. Had Thaddeus realised what he had done to his family in an effort to save them? Had he conquered his demons and atoned for his sins?  Or was it just another wallow in self pity from a failed comedian and failed husband and father?  Murphy makes a powerful comment on redemption and whether any of us really understand how the other thinks and feels.

You can watch what audience members thought about the show here 
View the Trailer here:

Stand Up Man runs in the Baby Grand until Saturday 8th February and you can book tickets here
after which the show will tour various venues across NI.  More information is available here           

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Coming up: Stand Up Man by C21 Theatre Company

Northern Ireland theatres are set to host a dark comedy with a difference as Stand Up Man by Derek Murphy prepares to open at the Grand Opera House’s Baby Grand theatre on 28th January before touring regional theatres throughout February.

Stand Up Man follows Thaddeus McGuinn, played by Nick Hardin, a stand-up comedian who is one joke away from a mental breakdown. Disgraced ex-altar boy, Thaddeus, is about to face his toughest audience ever, his own sins. The play focuses on Thaddeus over one week, as he journeys back and forth between his audience and his family.

Well known Northern Ireland actor, comedian and TV personality, Tim McGarry will play a main role as Thaddeus’ alter ego as he visits his past and admits the errors of his way. This will be McGarry’s first serious theatre role after a successful, long-running career in comedy, radio and TV.

The play is written by Dublin born playwright Derek Murphy who now lives in New York. It is being produced by c21 Theatre Company from Belfast, led by producer Stephen Kelly and directed by Stephen Beggs.

Speaking about the play, Murphy said:

“Stand Up Man is a dark but humorous insight into the complex mind of a troubled Irish-American comedian which explores his guilt, shame and regrets in life. I think everyone knows someone a little like Thaddeus, our misguided anti-hero, so I hope Stand Up Man will resonate with our audiences. 

“I’m also delighted to be working with c21 again. This is the second theatre production I’ve collaborated with them on, following their production of the world premier of my play ‘Appendage’ in 2012, so I’m confident the cast and crew will create an amazing show.”

Following its two week run at the Baby Grand in Belfast’s Grand Opera House from 28th January, Stand Up Man will tour local theatres throughout February including the Island Arts Theatre, Lisburn; Riverside Theatre, Coleraine; Craic Theatre, Coalisland and the Market Place Theatre, Armagh.

Book your tickets for the Grand Opera House by clicking here.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The East Belfast & the Great War Project begins

So last night was the start of something special.  The East Belfast & The Great War project research team met properly for the first time. We've been planning for a while and now the hard work begins.

We aim to tell the story of World War I through the eyes of the men and women of East Belfast.

At this point the vision is to collate a database containing the names of every single serviceman from East Belfast who served in World War One.  We hope to set up a fully searchable website for those who wish to trace a particular individual. We also intend to produce a publication which will 'tell the story' of East Belfast's role in World War One. We will facilitate seminars for the East Belfast community to encourage residents to come forward with their information & stories and at the end of the project will present our findings.

Want to know more about me?  You can click here to read my project bio.

The project is led by East Belfast Historian Jason Burke. You can read his excellent website by clicking here.

The other researchers are David Ralston and Joanne Gallagher.

Expect updates here and over on the facebook page, and please get in touch if you have any information you think is relevant.