I Will Survive
It’s a case of rewind be kind for aspiring singer Mary Jane, looking back over her short life to figure out where she is and how the hell she got there. From Dublin to New York Mary’s tale involves a catalogue of good times gone bad, or boring, being remixed with an anthem aspiring soundtrack. In Kate Stanley Brennan’s debut play “Walk For Me,” glitzy nostalgia for the club old days makes for an uneasy bedfellow with Brennan’s darker themes of rape during a young girls coming of age. If life loops back on itself going nowhere slow in this uneven fusion of music and theatre, “Walk For Me” still delights with a wonderful performance from Brennan, even if it's tale of a spirited survivor is somewhat awkwardly told.
First produced in 2017 as part of Dublin Fringe Festival, “Walk For Me” delivers an uneasy marriage of gig and performance. Built from two loosely interconnected segments, “Walk For Me’s” first part plays like a prolonged music video for #metoo as Mary recounts being subjected to a series of rapes as a young woman which result in an unwanted pregnancy. A hand brake turn midway, courtesy of a J1 visa, sees the music loving Mary Jane flying off to the Big Apple where she decides she will survive because she loves the nightlife and she's not going home. Dressed and made up like a car crash of fluorescent Crayola colours, her whiplash braids flailing wildly when not tied up, Mary Jane dances, poses and vogues her way through the drug fuelled New York club scene till her party groove and self-deceptions run out of steam. For like the last party goer after the club finally closes, Mary Jane wants to survive the hangover. But where do you go when you’ve nowhere left to go? And, more importantly, what will you do to get you there?
If Brennan’s disjointed narrative shows heart and honesty, textually it often sounds like prose dressed up as poetry. There might be lots of basic rhymes on display, but its rhythms don’t always flow and descriptive cliches replace the kind of poetic lyricism that can set the imagination on fire. Vocally, Brennan’s prowess might shine in the studio, but live on stage it proves a much more modest affair often competing, unsuccessfully, against the level of the music. Throughout, Mary Jane’s circuitous tale is interspersed with an album full of under performing songs whose repetitive beats might often hit the mark, but whose slogan level lyrics are less impressive. Yet if a thumping soundtrack composed by Brennan’s alter-ego Miss Kate, along with Adam Fogarty (Mathman), doesn’t always result in murder on the dance floor, some beats are particularly infectious. Wonderfully supported by Brennan’s clever dance routines, like energised smiles of joy, enveloped in some top class production values.
Superb use of projections and video design by Johnny Brennan (Bobofunk) add both depth and dimension throughout, allowing for some impressive interactive moments. Stephen Dodd’s sharp lighting design beautifully conveys something of the heart and soul of an underground club set, especially when Brennan sings and dances. As does DJ Handsome Paddy, performing live on stage, who delivers with impeccable split second perfection. Under Sarah Brennan’s confident direction, “Walk For Me” punches successfully above its weight. Even if it doesn’t deliver that rousing knock out punch, it ultimately wins on points and often has you reeling. Due, in no small measure, to an irresistible performance from a bewitching Kate Stanley Brennan that sparkles with theatrical magic. For under her sister Sarah’s astute directorial guidance, Kate Stanley Brennan elevates “Walk For Me” into something truly memorable.
In the end, like its star, “Walk For Me” is much more than the sum of its various parts. At its best, ‘Walk For Me” is as effervescent, colourful, and as joyously potent as a well mixed, late night cocktail. And best when enjoyed in likeminded company.
“Walk For Me” by Kate Stanley Brennan, runs at The Project Arts Centre until January 26.
For more information, visit The Project Arts Centre