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  • Chris O'Rourke

Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016: The Wickedness of Oz

Kate Gilmore in The Wickedness of Oz

Photo credit: Clíona Ní Laoi


Watching a star being born

That Kate Gilmore one had better watch herself. If she's not careful she's going to turn into one of those ones. You know the type, perfect at everything they do. If you can climb Everest, she can probably do it backwards, blindfolded, with a broken arm and raise six billion for charity while she’s doing it. Bad enough she can act, being only brilliant in ‘Town is Dead.’ Bad enough she can sing, being only amazing in ‘The Train.’ Bad enough she can write too, with her play ‘Stella Full of Storms’ winning best new play at The Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. But now she’s acting, singing and writing in her latest, one-woman production, ‘The Wickedness of Oz,’ with that Fishamble crowd, performing it as part of their Show in a Bag at Tiger Dublin Fringe! Who does she think she is, Ireland’s next big thing?

In ‘The Wickedness of Oz’ Kate Gilmore tells the story of Debbie. A motor mouth who never shuts up, talking endlessly so she doesn’t have to say what she really needs to say. Never taking no for an answer, she makes the whole world her audience as she overshares all her troubles. Twenty-one years old and living at home with her parents, Debbie hates her job as a travel agent, hates her manager, hates her potential mother-in-law and is hated by her in return. But today, June 6th, she really hates Ciara Cabra and Emily Murray, the latter flooding social media with images of her perfect life and body down under in Australia. Meanwhile, a coatless Debbie, already late for work, is forced to walk there with a hangover, all the while wondering about her brother Fred and sister Donna, and will her boyfriend Aaron be able to do the one thing she’s incapable of.

Fast, funny, touching and tender, Gilmore’s script is wonderfully deceptive and engaging. Revolving around a story of a younger brother that looks like it's been cobbled in to fit, Gilmore suddenly flips it into something quite potent and moving at the end. Sanitised, with barely a curse word in there, Gilmore substitutes harshness with charm and ‘The Wickedness of Oz’ is all the more beguiling because of it. Less satisfying is the musical theatre dimension, which may well disappoint musical theatre geeks, with this rich vein not being exploited more. Indeed, those looking for a yellow brick road will find the Oz of the title has more to do with barbeques, bronze bodies and Bondi beach than with wizards and witches. With musicals serving more like a condiment than a main course, you could almost make a case for false advertising. It’s there, but no way near enough. But that is more than compensated for by some fine writing, brimming with sharp, hilarious and insightful observations.

With ‘The Wickedness of Oz’ Gilmore’s writing kudos increase exponentially. But her acting kudos go through the roof in a wonderful performance that’s just wickedly good. Gilmore works the room likes she’s being doing it forever, captivating everyone with her irresistible charm, humour and impeccable timing. Director Clare Maguire has to take a lot of credit, both in helping develop ‘The Wickedness of Oz’ and in helping Gilmore deliver an outstanding performance. Like Denis Clohessy’s excellent sound design, Gilmore has t0 fight against the acoustic restrictions of the venue and the volume of noise coming from the street, but these are minor annoyances as Gilmore has the audience eating right from her hand from beginning to end.

There are moments in every artist's career when something happens. A breakthrough, a coming together, a convergence. Sometimes it's loud, sometimes it's understated, but it’s always undeniable. For many years Fishamble’s Show in a Bag has been fostering new artists and projects, lending their considerable support, talent and expertise as midwife to many in Irish theatre. With ‘The Wickedness of Oz’ this midwife may have just given birth to a star.

Kate Gilmore? Who does she think she is, Ireland’s next big thing?

Quite possibly.

‘The Wickedness of Oz’ by Kate Gilmore, produced by Fishamble: The New Play Company as part of Show in a Bag for Tiger Dublin Fringe, runs at Bewleys Café Theatre@ Powerscourt until September 23rd

Show in a Bag is an artist development initiative of Tiger Dublin Fringe, Fishamble: The New Play Company and Irish Theatre Institute

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