Coward of the County
Good Catholic boy, Padraig Potts McKiernan, aspiring to bravery yet trapped in a coward’s body, was born in the village of Drumnamee in County Leitrim. A place so devoid of life even its corpses are breaking out of their graves in an effort to escape. Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Padraig wants more than the monotonous view that greets his mother everyday as she peers out through the narrow gap in her curtains. But escape won’t come easy from Drumnamee, or maybe not at all. Lamps McGovern has tried. Several times. Sylvia Lang, Padraig's Protestant love interest, looks like she just might make it, if she finally takes off for America as she plans. But if she goes, that means the pony gets put back in the stable, the floors go unpolished, and an end to their Olympic standard sex. Not Irish Olympic standards, the one where you actually win medals. Wonderfully observed and touchingly portrayed, Seamus O’Rourke’s bittersweet, semi autobiographical comedy is a gentle giant of a production. A tale of cowards and of possible second chances, “Padraig Potts’ Guide to Walking” shows we can always come of age, no matter what our age, by returning to the crossroads when God’s not looking.
To describe “Padraig Potts’ Guide to Walking” as a comedy might do it something of a disservice. Granted, it is amply loaded with rich humour and endless laughs, but there’s something more going on, something that often hits you with the force of a revelation. O’Rourke’s thoughtful script looks at how we become trapped in lives we don't want, with people, or alcohol, we don't want, despite our best intentions. Deftly directed by Charles McGuinness, with a clever set by an unnamed designer, “Padraig Potts’ Guide to Walking” showcases O’Rourke’s considerable talents as both writer and performer, as he plays a village full of 'characters.' Whether wet from the rain, or other things, struggling to see the snooker on a black and white television, or soul searching to find the courage to take that walk on the wild side, O’Rourke is always mesmerizing.
“Padraig Potts’ Guide to Walking” belongs to the tradition of Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come, or Hugh Leonard’s Da, works concerned with a generation coming of age in a repressive Catholic Ireland trapped in stultifying traditions. An Ireland that was neither bendy nor flexible, where nothing happened but everything happened, and where sex was on everyone’s mind even if no one spoke of it. A work best appreciated by an older generation, “Padraig Potts’ Guide to Walking” may still delight those who won’t get all its religious and contextual references. Its universal message that when there's nothing left to live for, you might then find every reason to live, along with the courage to live it, is engagingly told. Heartbreaking, and heartwarming, “Padraig Potts’ Guide to Walking” is O’Rourke at his hilarious and heartfelt best.
“Padraig Potts’ Guide to Walking” written and performed by Seamus O’Rourke, directed by Charles McGuinness, presented by Big Guerilla Productions and The Viking Theatre, runs at The Viking Theatre until August 19th
For more information. visit The Viking Theatre