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           

1 comment:

  1. Derek Murphy was born raised and bottle fed in Dublin Ireland