Eimear Mullen Frew, Daniel Monoghan and Aisling O'Mara in 15 Minutes. Image uncredited.
Andy Warhol allegedly claimed everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. He neglected to mention that being infamous lasts for considerably longer. Just ask the notorious Chrissie, sorry, Chris, a former Reality TV star who makes the cast of Jersey Shore seem shy and retiring. A woman who plummeted from nationwide popularity finding herself back on TV recording a Ride A Side reunion special. A show so trashy it makes Tallafornia look positively intelligent. Its premise simple; put a bunch of horny, barely legal loudmouths in a free house for eight weeks, with access to all areas, all nightclubs, unlimited parties and booze, and pretend you care what happens. Except Chris is older now and beginning to realise maybe she does care what happened. To herself mainly. But it's a start.
Preaching to the converted, Aisling O'Mara's 15 Minutes doesn't so much explore Reality TV's shame and blame game so much as recycle it, but with none of the build up of tension. Its weak script built upon an excess of questions and backstory. A series of Q&A's over the phone by the maniacally laughing researcher, Annabelle, is followed by her Q&A interview with Chris. Immediately followed by another Q&A interview with Chris's former lover and housemate, Johnny. A brief, three way interlude looks likes it might kick off into something other than Q&A backstories, but it's immediately followed by another Q&A backstory, this time between Chris and Johnny. As the Q&A trudges on, punctured by some trash talking one liners and video sequences (also offering backstory), explanations and justifications pile high, some convenient and contrived, others hard to buy into. All leading towards an unsurprising twist that, while it carries some clout, doesn't do enough to bring it all home. Neither do moments of car crash comedy seen in cleverly executed video sequences, whose liveliness makes the predominant sitting around onstage look a little lifeless.
Relying on tropes and references for substance, 15 Minutes has little at stake other than its character's egos. Its incessant questions leaving you begging for less, concerned as they are with people you never meet and incidents that took place long before the play started. Indeed, backstory proves more developed than the story taking place on stage. What redeems 15 Minutes are some first rate performances and hilarious comic moments, woven together by TKB's competent if unchallenging direction. Beginning with O'Mara as the Reality weary Chris. Retired to the Midlands, O'Mara's Chris captures a woman who misses the benefits of celebrity but is questioning the cost. Daniel Monaghan as pretty boy Johnny, having slept with more women than a jockey's had horses, proves intriguing, trying to hint at hidden depths in the shallow pool that is his personality. Yet it's a show stealing Eimear Mullen Frew as the perma-smiling Annabelle who elevates it all. Smiling as if her life depended on it, her hidden claws can cut to the quick. Capturing in a compelling performance the essence of Reality TV. That it might look youthful, sleek and sexy, but all it wants is to set you up to tear you down, always ready to exploit you for its own gain.
For those who enjoy the juvenile end of the Celebrity Big Brother spectrum, references and in-jokes alone make 15 Minutes good for a few laughs. For those who don't like Reality TV, there's not enough substance comedically, theatrically or dramatically, to really engage with, and the in-jokes don't land near as well. If, with Reality TV, it can be clever to be stupid sometimes, it's always the smart move having dialogue do more than ask questions. As an actor and writer, O'Mara is incredibly smart and talented. But 15 Minutes finds her not having her best day. But that's the point of Glass Mask Theatre, allowing new things to be tried and tested. For no team wins every game.
15 Minutes by Aisling O'Mara runs at Glass Mask Theatre until February 19.
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