Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lofty aspirations

On Friday night I went to see Myles Breen’s one-man show ‘Language unbecoming a lady’.

It was my second time seeing the show, and my first view of the new ‘Loft Venue’ upstairs in The Locke Bar. ‘The Loft’ is a great spot and no small amount of credit is due to the ‘Bottom Dog’ folk for carrying out the tremendous amount of work required to change a good idea into an impressive reality. The Loft isn’t big, it’s not perfectly soundproof and it’s seating comprises mainly of loose, (if surprisingly comfortable), wooden chairs. In comparison to a purpose built theatre, it has its’ limitations; but it has its’ advantages too.
Presentation will always be a big part of showbiz, and this aspect of the venue is completely flawless. From the illuminated posters on street level, to the sign on the door, to the black uniform and logo bearing nametags worn by the front-of-house staff, everything about the look and feel of it said ‘professional’.

Although compact, (seats about 50), for Bottom Dog’s purposes, the size is ideal. It’s intimate without being poky and the practical demands of a smaller venue, (i.e. that shows must run longer to accommodate an audience that would fit into another venue on a single night) can only improve the quality, as individual shows have an opportunity to generate a momentum on their own merit, and theatre’s ultimate marketing tool; ‘word-of-mouth’ gets a chance to create, or negate, interest.

Evidence of this democratic marketing tool in action can be found in the history of ‘Language Unbecoming a Lady’. Conceived originally as a small and unambitious contribution to the Limerick gay pride festival, ‘Language’ found an audience by ‘word-of –mouth’ that crossed the boundaries of young/old, local/national, gay or straight and was comprised instead of people who want to see a good show, well-written and performed to perfection by an experienced and talented actor.
Myles wrote it for himself to play and its’ so well tailored to his strengths that it is impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. As one might expect in a play about a drag queen, there are is a bit of singing to old records, dancing to disco, and plenty of the ‘trade-mark’ gay-man-double-entendres. What is unexpected is how masterfully the script weaves these clichéd conventions into a real and accessible human story that swings with all the emotion of a manic depressive and still manages to take us with it every time. That’s not an easy thing to achieve; Liam O’Brien has directed a fine balance between humour and pathos and there is more than one scene that, in the hands of the less experienced team, would easily have become melodramatic or over-sentimental. ‘Language’ gets the mix right and manages to make it look effortless.
It’s a fact of life that there are people who wont like the sound of the subject matter or feel that it’s not the sort of play they’d like to see; perhaps presuming they’d find it difficult to relate to the main character. When I first attended this play I thought it was going to be about homosexuality, and it is, in a way. It certainly deals with it, but its’ strength is in the way that it deals with it as a fact rather than an issue. The core of the story is essentially the private world of an Irish male, living his life and coming to terms with the changes in himself and the world around him. Perhaps it’s not one for the kiddies but you can bring your sweet conservative catholic mum, and you mightn’t think it, but she’ll love it.

The play continues until the first of May, if you go and see it you will be supporting a brave new project that can mean only good things for Limerick, and if you don’t go and see it, you’ll miss one of the best shows in town this year.

All pics 'stolen without so much as a by-your-leave' from Bock the robber. Check out his images if you want to see how lovely the Loft Venue is.

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