It’s an undisputed fact that Peter Sheridan is passionate about Dublin. Indeed, it could be argued that Sheridan is the contemporary voice for that Dublin of the rare old times. In his novels and plays Sheridan gives voice to the past, sidling up to sentimentality at times, but pulling back just at the right side of memory before it topples completely into nostalgia. Though he’s not averse to sprinkling a little nostalgia about for good measure. Next to Dublin, Brendan Behan is another of Sheridan’s great passions. Following his recent production of “Meet The Quare Fellow,” Sheridan returns with a new adaptation of Brendan Behan’s hugely popular short story, “The Confirmation Suit,” in a production which he also directs. Yet it is also a production a little blinded by its passion, but one that still delivers some moving and hilarious moments.
When it comes to what “The Confirmation Suit” is about, the short answer is it's about a young boy embarrassed by the ugly confirmation suit he’s being forced to wear, made by a fellow resident in the tenement in which he lives, the elderly seamstress, Miss McCann. It's a gift he does not want, or appreciate, and does everything he can to conceal it, gradually completing his rite of passage into manhood by realising the significance of the gift and by doing what needs to be done. A more detailed answer is “The Confirmation Suit” is about life, death, growing up and, most importantly, people. Throughout, “The Confirmation Suit,” presents a gallery of Dublin’s rogues, rebels and reprobates, characters from a time and place fading from memory, brought vividly to life by Gary Cooke.
Just like its confirmation suit concealed beneath an overcoat, Sheridan's script conceals much of its story beneath an overcoat of characters and details that also serve to distract from the main event. Throughout, the balance is a little off and it takes awhile to feel the story coming through, with additional details, such as Russell Street singsongs, often sapping narrative of its power, without being of sufficient interest or colour in themselves. A naturally gifted impersonator, Gary Cooke as Brendan, looking the physical embodiment of the man himself, excels as the rich cast of Dubliners, yet doesn’t always look as comfortable as the older Brendan trying to play the younger Brendan. Like Sheridan’s script, Cooke can seem like he has too much going in places, with the whole feeling like it’s trying to be all things to all people. A confusion not helped by a deeply distracting lighting and sound design, both more of a hindrance than a help, which Cooke’s performance is more than capable of doing without. For when script and performance merge, at its best, “The Confirmation Suit” offers moments of pure memory and magic.
In “The Confirmation Suit,” pride goes before a fall and vanity is perhaps the worse sin of all. Yet “The Confirmation Suit,” has more to say than that, being another of Sheridan’s poems of love and loss to a fading Dublin and its much loved Dubliners. The voice might not be as clear here as it often is, but "The Confirmation Suit" still resounds loudly, offers some hard laughs along the way, and is a welcome addition to the lore that ensures we remember, and laugh, lest we forget something vital.
“The Confirmation Suit” by Brendan Behan, adapted by Peter Sheridan, runs at Bewley's Cafe Theatre @ Powerscourt until June 3rd
For more information, visit Bewley's Cafe Theatre @ Powerscourt