Monday, April 26, 2010

Batty Ryan; Life-Coach champion of the world!

I like Joe Rooney. I like his head. I saw him do stand up years ago in the Theatre Royal, (he was the support act for Ardal O’Hanlon), and I was very impressed; while Ardal O’Hanlon struggled with a less-than respectful crowd, (he was practically bullied into singing ’my lovely horse’) Joe, the support,- with less experience and less polished material, handled the situation better, or that’s the way I remember it.
Maybe I just like to think well of Joe because he has a great oul’ head and because he was so brilliant and unforgettable as the gurrier priest, Father Damo. As well as a great head, I also think Joe Rooney has a great name. It sounds like Dublin slang for university;
‘How’s the philosophy doctorate workin’ out for you Anto?’
‘It’s working out deadly!’
‘Ah yeah man, I got a gig teachin’ semantics over at the Joe Rooney’.
‘Noice waaannnn!’

So it was with the happy prospect of seein’ Joe’s head that I set off Sunday night to the Loft Venue to check out the Joe show; ‘Batty Ryan will change your life’.
Sunday night was a weird night for the show, there didn’t seem to be anyone there at Eight O’ Clock, and I was a bit worried for Joe and the Bot-dogs. As it turned out everyone was in the bar, and the place was, if not packed, certainly quite busy. I had to sit at the back. Incidentally, in the earlier review of ‘Language’ I said the seats were mostly wooden and loose. This is not so. The first four rows are the loose chairs, all the rest are these lovely armchair purpose-built things. My bad.
So sitting in my lovely comfy seat, (great sight-lines too), I did have some reservations. I knew in advance that there was a pre-recorded video element to the play, which is a pet peeve. It’s one of those things, like rhubarb, that I know other people like, but cant for the life of me understand why. Rhubarb isn’t food as far as I’m concerned, and film isn’t a live show. There are others who would tell you otherwise and they are many and I am one and I’m probably mad I know but still.
It is my personal experience that whenever the pre-recorded enters into the live, the spell is broken and it’s hard to get back into things again. As well as the video problem there was the problem of the subject matter; I’ve never attended one of these seminar things so I was a little worried that I wouldn’t have a frame of reference for the jokes. I needn’t have worried; it was gas. It was gas and it was brave and it worked. I do have niggles, but minor niggles is all they are and whatever I feel didn’t work, the main thing is I had a great night and haven’t laughed so much in ages.

Okay then:
Niggle #1
(which is a small niggle indeed,) Batty’s polish girlfriend was polish, but she sang about waiting for a permit. A polish person wouldn’t need one so that bit made no sense.
Niggle #2
There were some ‘missed technical cues’ built-in in to the script for comedy value, but on Sunday night there was some actual missed technical cues as well, which became confusing and undermined them as a device.
The video bits. They weren’t a complete bowl of rhubarb, but the voice over that isn’t Batty’s is a ‘mock-dumb-yank spongebob Patrick’ voice that’s entirely unnecessary. The voice of the life-coach video should be played straight. What it says is funny, but a lot less so when said in a ‘funny’ voice. Also, I wasn’t sure when to watch the video and when to watch the actors. The juxtaposition of both is the whole joke but you don’t get it if you can only watch one thing at a time.
The targets it attacks are easy targets, and it doesn’t let up on them. Batty’s ultimately a shallow and materialistic caricature, and so’s his girlfriend. But I thought that his pain after their break-up and her anger at his treatment of him might both benefit from being played that little bit straighter. It could actually be funnier and it would mean that the audience could sympathise with them a little which is what they want to do after a while.
The improvisation with the crowd was brilliant, but the improvisation between each other just came across as a wee bit sloppy. It’s brave to try different things and explore the play but a few tighter parameters about when, and when not, to do this would help the whole thing retain its momentum.
If you’re going to have a gag about going off-key at the end of a song then it helps if you’re actually in key when singing it. Sing it in key up until that point or else lose the gag.
It’s a cheap and easy trick to build a standing ovation into the script of a play. As audience members, the power to applaud for as long as we feel like it and no further is our right. Also one of our rights is the right to sit down or stand up when we clap at the end of the show. This right was taken from us by the mechanics of the play. And the worse of it is, I felt like standing up to show my appreciation, but I couldn’t. I was already standing.

The brighter side of my experience tonight shall be under the heading Giggles:

Joe Rooney’s ‘Freddie Mercury’ impersonation, (with a little bit of Ken Dodd thrown in). I will take with me to the grave.
I was right about Joe Rooney’s head, the man has a great head. His experience with stand-up really showed. There were bumps in the show, as mentioned above and bumps might sound dreadful and might well have been dreadful but for Joe’s ability and presence, he recovers extremely quickly and he takes everyone with him.
Sharyn Hayden is excellent, well-observed and spot on in her delivery and doesn’t need lines to be hilarious.
The show is so high-octane that you feel a sense of exhaustion must creep into the performance at some stage, and though there is an inevitable loss of focus with improvisation, there was never a dip in energy.
Audience interaction. There were one or two ‘victims’ who got a little extra rubbing but overall the sense was that the entire audience was taken the piss out of now and then and nobody was singled out and bullied mercilessly for the night.
It’s a great idea and it works so well. It’s billed as pure comedy, and it’s played as pure comedy, but it manages highlight the very worst about modern Irish society at the same time.

So it’s true what they say; ‘there’s no show like a Joe show’ and although it’s even more true to say; ‘there’s no show like a Joe and Sharyn show’ that doesn’t sound half as good, and is unlikely to catch on. Following Batty’s advice I’m off to live my life; I’m going to ‘make this day count’ and no longer ‘count the days’ and when the Recession comes knocking on the door, I wont answer!( I shall be inside on the sitting room floor, hiding behind the sofa of success!)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Darren Maher!!

    Thanks so much for all your comments! We had a grea time on Sunday night in Luimneach and I may take Joe Rooney calling me a 'Cold Fish. Like a Cod' (not scripted) to the grave myself!

    Lots of love,
    Sharyn xxx