Al Dawes fucking loves you. Does he now. Because it looks like Al Dawes doesn’t love anyone. Least of all himself. Or his girlfriend, Joanna. In Erin McGathy’s “Al Dawes Fucking Loves You” comedy confessional flips into last act counselling session as one woman relays her personal experiences with domestic abuse. If its biographical honesty packs a punch, its comedy proves lightweight at best. Yet a simply act of theatricality delivers one of the most liberating onstage reveals.
Dressed as a good ol’ redneck boy, McGathy takes to the stage as Dawes to deliver his self-indulgent set. A testing of new material for his upcoming show. Manspread on his chair, lies come hard and fast between swigs of beer. Dawes says he’s funny. He’s mildly amusing at best. Claims he’s edgy, mean, vulgar. Yet your Granny’s not likely to be reaching for the smelling salts. Mansplaining how he loves his girlfriend Joanna who broke his heart, and, I know, I know, he’s not been the best towards her, and it's something he's not proud of. But she has to take her share of the responsibility. If a little self-deprecating humour allows him to temper his sins with a joke, it also allows him to hide in plain sight. But what has Joanna got to say about it all?
If tropes run riot throughout, and the comedy is mild at best, McGathy still commands attention with a strong performance. Her idea of comedians hiding in plain sight asks some clever questions about accountability. But not in this instance, as you see through Dawes’ self-delusional patter right from the get go and never buy it. Cleverly shifting lights, and a cleverly handled reveal, hint of an underplayed theatricality far more effective than McGathy's lightweight comedy. But that, too, has its moments as a superb joke on the sin of improv hammers home both the laughs, and McGathy’s point, at one and the same time. As does the final, cathartic act that allows McGathy reclaim something of what was lost and link her story to others. Making you wish she had done this more.
Al Dawes claims he fucking loves you. There’s a good chance you’ll not love Al Dawes. Erin McGathy however, you might fall madly in love with.
“Al Dawes Fucking Loves You” by Erin McGathy, presented by Mob Theatre Dublin, ran at The New Theatre as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2019.