O Solo Mio
Noel, a middle aged, Wexford taxi driver, of sound mind and unsound body, sits at a table, his right hand hanging lifeless in his lap. He’s preparing to record his last will and testament, and his memories of youth, on an old cassette player for his lifelong friend Richie. For Noel has MS and has some things he needs to say. In Eoin Colfer’s touching and heartfelt “My Real Life” a middle aged man remembers life lived and un-lived, and the one that got away. While Colfer’s tale overflows with heart and soul, its narrowly focused narrative, built of interlinked anecdotes, often skirts the surfaces rather than the depths. But it still packs one hell of a punch courtesy of it’s endearing humour and heartfelt ending, and a mesmerising performance by Don Wycherley.
As a taxi driver Noel knows that the beginning of the night is all appearance, the end of the night is truth. So too in life it seems. In the late 70s and early to mid 80s life appeared to be there for the taking, just waiting to be lived. An intoxicating cocktail of real and imagined heroics, of snooker games and English teachers, and of exotic and easy Dublin girls set against an 80s soundtrack by The Thompsons Twins and Howard Jones, uncool music for uncool dudes. But as the years pass while you wait for your life to happen, opportunities come calling if you’re smart enough to take them. And to realise what you have. Otherwise sin in haste, repent in leisure. For when the night ends, the truth will have it and ask some hard, pertinent questions of how you lived.
With its cassette device evoking flavours of 13 Reasons Why, Colfer’s script sees Noel’s real life as something to be aspired to, and something with a particularly narrow focus. For life and romantic love come to mean much the same thing, with everything else rendered as colour, context, or background, humorous and joyous as that might be. Friendship, the intervening years, along with other aspects of Noel’s life are present but never as fully articulated, serving as decoration around Noel’s lovelorn anecdotes. All of which makes Noel feel less of a study in character and more of a study in loneliness. Something Colfer superbly and subtly articulates. Even if you don’t always see him doing it, (though the flipping of the tape brings it powerfully to the fore) you feel its impact underscoring everything.
If Colfer’s script makes some big asks, Don Wycherley sells it in an outstanding one-man performance, superbly directed by Ben Barnes. Wycherley is both magnetic and mesmerising, taking what could have been an oversharing stranger and turning him into a charming, yet powerful study of loss and loneliness by way of a genuinely impressive performance.
Narratively “My Real Life” can have a lot of colour but little real thrust, despite a strong ending. But is has heart, humour, and a riveting performance by Wycherley. With its abundance of dated references “My Real Life” might well delight the Bosco generation more than those coming after. But it speaks to us all. A timely reminder that health is indeed wealth, that life is lived now or never, and that we are all lighting a little hour or two, then gone.
“My Real Life” by Eoin Colfer, runs at The Viking Theatre until Sept 1st
For more information, visit The Viking Theatre