Too Many Good Things
In “Dummy,” by Peter Dunne, breakdowns run in the Prendergast family. Louisa, or Dolly as she’s now called, is a well-known ventriloquist on children’s TV, who, along with her dummy, Melody, is about to have her impending breakdown broadcast live into your living room. Her brother Alistair, or Teddy as he prefers to be called, sits in the family home with his own dummy, Pops, still dealing with his own breakdown. A recovering addict with agoraphobic tendencies and a mountain of debt, Teddy is going to have to deal with the fact that Dolly is moving back home now her career is over. They haven’t spoken in years, not since Mom disappeared, but that shouldn’t pose a problem. Melody and Pops can do their talking for them. A production that marries ventriloquism with impressions, pantomime with variety show, straight up play and sheer lunacy, “Dummy” is something of a hilarious hot mess where it’s not always clear who the real dummies are. Yet if it looses its way as much as it finds it, when it hits the mark, “Dummy” is a bundle of energised joy.
Unashamedly playing for laughs, “Dummy’s” zany, whacky, and sometimes dark, humour is delivered at full throttle right from the get go. As a result it very soon plateaus having nowhere higher to go. Nuance is a little on the lean side as director Sarah Finlay seems to have let Niamh McGrath as Dolly, and Donncha O’Dea as Teddy, free rein to go wherever they want. It almost pays off. McGrath is delightful as the responsible sister struggling to make sense of it all and overwhelmed with frustration. O’Dea is outstanding as the odd brother whose madness is almost endearing. But if McGrath looks like an actress caught in a pantomime, O’Dea looks like a pantomime character trapped in a play and the balance never quite happens. Ventriloquism also has its issues. In the era of Nina Conti and Jeff Durham, the standard here appears competent rather than compelling. Indeed, when the dummies disappear momentarily during the overly long variety show sequence, O’Dea and McGrath excel, with O’Dea’s manic impersonations worth the price of admission alone.
In the end, “Dummy” feels something like a strawberry, crisps, and pepperoni pizza covered in maple syrup. Individually the ingredients are delicious, together they make for something of a hot mess whose flavours can undermine, or cancel out, each other. Ultimately, “Dummy” delivers some hard, fast, energized laughs in a pantomime sketch that wants to be play. A fact that somewhat undermines the smart and touching twist at the end. But it’s also a mess that can make for some intriguing flavor combinations at times. So take a bite of “Dummy’s” wild, crazy, whacky, weird energy. You’ll laugh hard doing it, and enjoy some tasty flavours in the process.
“Dummy” by Peter Dunne, presented by MORB, runs at The Peacock Stage at The Abbey Theatre as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2017 until September 16th
For more information visit Dublin Fringe Festival 2017 or The Abbey Theatre