Postcards from the Ledge

October 31, 2017

****

Father of the Bride

 

 It’s 2029, and everything’s changed yet remained the same in the universe of Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, Hook, Lyon and Sinker’s money grubbing, estate agent. A man who loves rugby almost as much as he loves himself. Sorcha is still around, except now she’s Taoiseach and running the country. His son, Ronan, is equally involved in making a significant contribution to Irish society, brokering a peace deal between the Kinahan and Hutch gangs. Then there’s the rotten apple of Daddy’s eye, his belligerent daughter, Honor. Whose only wish is to marry Greg, the man her heart desires. A man who has no interest in rugby, and happens to be thirty years older than the youthful Honor. A man Daddy does not like one little bit. Offering heartfelt praise, and a hilarious indictment of flawed fathers, and a rich, satirical commentary on a frayed society, “Postcards from the Ledge” talks to the present through the future in a sharp, slick, and superb comedy exploring Daddies and their daughters, and the joys, and pains, of loving someone when you know you'll have to let them go.

 

In Paul Howard’s delightful “Postcards from the Ledge”, a daughter with Daddy issues collides with her over protective father in Howard’s fourth theatrical outing for Ireland’s best-loathed estate agent. He might have to squint when checking his phone these days, possess a 42 inch waist, and have a fiftieth birthday on the horizon, but the almost-rugby-legend, Ross O’Carroll-Kelly still has all the vomit inducing charm, and cringe worthy confidence, of a man convinced of his own irresistible affluence. And a love for his daughter that just might exceed the aggravation they both feel for one another. A love that might drive him to attempted manslaughter, vandalising her home without her permission, or shagging a Mick Wallace lookalike to show her the error of her ways in falling for a man over twice her age. For Daddy always knows best, even if Daddy doesn’t know if he has what it takes to be the father his daughter needs. He still knows no man is good enough to take care of Daddy’s little girl, not even Daddy, and especially not a geriatric in waiting. It might mean returning to where it all began to try figure things out, but looking back to move forward  might be the only hope for a wedding day reconciliation between a defiant Dad and an equally determined daughter.

Cleverly interweaving O'Carroll-Kelly's long running backstory, “Postcards from the Ledge” makes the uninitiated feel invited while doing more than enough to keep devotees devoted. If Howard’s script risks being a one trick pony that overstays its welcome, with its Daddy/daughter narrative being milked for all it's worth, and then some, Howard’s delectable wit manages to keep it all engaging. Even so, a delightful father/son sub-plot, surrounding an Ireland versus Mexico rugby match, is something of an opportunity lost. Here lie glimpses of the substance beneath the satire, adding depth to go with the frivolity. But the sub-plot is never fully developed into something with real sentiment, or sufficient substance, serving only to interrupt the overtly sentimental, Daddy/daughter tale. While the sub-plot adds momentary impact, it never quite delivers all it could have, being essentially parked and let fade away. Even so, Howard’s hilarious script doesn't quite topple into over sentimentality, allowing “Postcards from the Ledge” to pack a pretty powerful punch, even if it never quite delivers the emotional knockout blow it might have. Still, Howard delivers more than enough political, personal, and social satire to make for a delightful evenings entertainment. Director Jimmy Fay teases out every ounce of “Postcards from the Ledge’s” heart and humour, which he paces perfectly, as well as deftly negotiating the delicate space between one-man show and stand up comedy routine.

 

The decision to present “Postcards from the Ledge” as a one-man show might sacrifice the joyful immediacy of character interactions found in previous O’Carroll-Kelly productions, but the increased focus on the likeably dislikable, anti-hero yields unexpected dividends, providing deeper insights into the self-loving legend from dreaded Sallynoggin. But it's not all about him, much and all as he would like to think it is. Sporadic, snappy voiceovers, brilliantly delivered by by Lisa Lambe, Kate Gilmore, Laurence Kinlan, Philip O’Sullivan, and Caoimhe O’Malley, not only break up the monologue flow, they provide links to recognisable characters and previous shows, along with making the whole much more engaging. Wonderfully realised set and costume designs by Grace Smart might see the loathsome estate agent slumming outside the uncharacteristic war zone that is 22 Glenageary Crescent, but it’s a place brought closer to home by an effective light design by Paul Keogan. Yet if all this helps make “Postcards from the Ledge” deeply engaging, it's Rory Nolan who carries the ball across the line. Nolan is like, actually, literally, brilliant as Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, the rugby loving, man without a plan, name dropping brands every chance he gets.

If, over the course of a morning and afternoon, O’Carroll-Kelly travels from eloquently describing a hovel in estate-speak in order to try sell it to you, to actually telling it as it is, a metaphor for his own personal journey to something resembling truth, he’ll still always be the man who wants what’s best for himself, and at the best price too. “Postcards from the Ledge” sees Howard’s iconic creation delivering laughs in abundance, and political, personal, and social insights that are still as funny, still as smart, and still as perceptive as ever. A man you hate to love, Ross O’Carroll-Kelly might be hard to resist at the best of times, even if you desperately want to, but in the hands of Rory Nolan, resistance is simply futile. If Brando will forever be identified with Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, Bogart with Rick in Casablanca, and Will Ferrell with Buddy in Elf, Rory Nolan must suffer the same fate when it comes to the self deluded, rugby legend lothario, Ross O’Carroll-Kelly. Others may follow, but he will always be the definitive braggart with a heart in there, somewhere.

 

Young or old, devotee or convert, “Postcards from the Ledge” will appeal to everyone. An easy-going evening of light entertainment, “Postcards from the Ledge” is laugh out loud, hilarious good fun. It might have an asking piece of  2.4 million, but it's a bargain at twice the price and so worth it.

 

“Postcards from the Ledge” by Paul Howard, directed by Jimmy Fay, produced by Landmark Productions in association with MCD, runs at The Gaiety Theatre until November 11th

 

For more information, visit The Gaiety Theatre.

 

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© 2016 Chris O'Rourke