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  • Chris ORourke

Dublin Fringe Festival 2018: The Fattest Dancer at St. Bernadette’s

The Fattest Dancer at St. Bernadette's. Image by Ste Murray



Meet Julian La Blanc. Dance teacher extraordinaire, with a temper and tongue that could slice through metal, Julian could have been a contender. Actually, Julian La Blanc had everyone beat and was well on his way to becoming a star until…well. Julian’s journey from young gay dancer in the bargain basement of Ballybough, to his tenth annual dance and drama showcase for young children in St.Bernadette’s Parish Hall is a fascinating tale. Yet telling it would deprive you of the immense pleasure of hearing Julian tell it himself. But be advised: bring a first aid kit. Julian’s tongue lashings might well flay you alive. In Thommas Kane Byrne’s lament, “The Fattest Dancer at St. Bernadette’s” one man’s struggle to rise above mediocrity proves to be one of the must see shows of the festival. Funny, moving, “The Fattest Dancer at St. Bernadette’s” isn’t just extraordinarily good, it’s downright bitchin’.

And bitchin’ in every sense of the word. For Julian doesn’t pull his politically incorrect punches for anyone, saying exactly what’s on his mind whatever your age, and saying it in his own incomparable style. Making “The Fattest Dancer at St. Bernadette’s” all the more gritty and heartfelt for doing so. Struggling with his famous five of four fabulous dancers, and one faithful assistant, Julian takes time out from preparing for his shambolic showcase to share his story. And to get a rest for his much tested patience which is wearing thin. Especially as his proteges Billy Jean, Cheyenne, Phoenix, and Lexi-May, keep constantly interrupting him. But the show will go on, in tastefully tacky costumes, and with one alternating cameo every night.

Superbly directed by Clare Maguire, “The Fattest Dancer at St. Bernadette’s” confirms Thommas Kane Byre (TKB) as an extraordinary and prolific talent, this being his third acclaimed script within a year. Byrne’s acerbic wit, beautifully observed details, wonderful referencing of pop culture, with some incredibly smart rhymes, delivers an astonishingly rich and detailed script that’s mouth-wateringly funny. As is Byrne’s sublime performance. Yet even Byrne’s immense talents risk being eclipsed by his four fantastic, scene stealing dancers; Lexi O’Leary, Morgan Preston, Amber Atkins, and Brooke Grey. Along with a near unrecognisable Ciara Ivie as the cartoonish, long suffering personal assistant, Janice. But this is Julian’s tale, and Julian La Blanc is one of a kind. As indeed, is Thommas Kane Byrne.

Vocal issues that meant some lines got lost (there were serious suspicions that Byrne was fighting some throat issue on the night), and what one hopes were opening night lighting problems, couldn't detract from the fierce, fabulous frenzy that is “The Fattest Dancer at St. Bernadette’s.” If, like Julian, you're prone to outbursts of petty jealousy and envy you might want to consider missing it. For Julian’s talent might well be a triple threat, but Thommas Kane Byrne is the real deal. Beg, borrow, steal a ticket if you have to, but go see “The Fattest Dancer at St. Bernadette’s.” For who wants pretension when you can have perfection.

“The Fattest Dancer at St. Bernadette’s” by Thommas Kane Byrne, presented by The Breadline Collective, runs at The Lir Academy as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2018 until September 22

For more information, visit The Lir Academy or Dublin Fringe Festival 2018

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