Dublin Theatre Festival 2019: The Bluffer’s Guide to Suburbia
Purporting to tell of an embittered Irish musician returning home having failed at giving it a go abroad, Ray Scannell’s “The Bluffer’s Guide to Suburbia” delivers up a thinly disguised diatribe on all things predictable. Directed by Tom Creed, “The Bluffer’s Guide to Suburbia” finds the self-pitying Finn lamenting rising rents, the plight of artists, and just about anything else he can think of. Dressed like a cut price Elton John in white Adidas shoes, a banana yellow suit, and red baseball cap, Finn serves up music and musings in a live, spoken word anti-gig punctured by immediately forgettable songs. All amounting to a ‘sleepwalking into oblivion’ rant delivered with the blinding persistence of a migraine.
While rising rents and impossible conditions for artists are hugely pressing concerns, both are poorly handled here. With lacklustre songs and tortured language contorted into overwrought tirades, Finn’s tale begins with the 40 year old’s vomit worrying journey back to his parents house in Clonsilla. Ensconced in a Dublin he hates, he takes a demeaning job and runs into a former band mate, now hugely successful, who offers the decidedly jealous Finn a slot at an upcoming gig on the Aran Islands. But Finn’s a bluffer, suffering impostor syndrome, secretly worried he’s not as good as he wants people to believe. Which fuels his hatred of the world, himself, and everything else that surrounds him. Allowing Finn to expound on all the negative issues of the day, finding fault with everything, including finding fault, yet offering little more by way of a solution than we can dream better dreams whilst lazing on the beaches of brand Ireland.
Satirically ranting against the ills of the world so he doesn’t have to look at himself, if there’s a hint of the tongue in cheek about some of Finn’s apocalyptic ravings, it’s a moot point. For “The Bluffer’s Guide to Suburbia's" desert dry humour makes for incredibly hard work, yielding precious few new insights. Like Sinead McKenna’s overworked and cramped set, it's something of a mess, with Creed’s decision to place the audience on three sides of the stage losing out on far more than the precious little it gains. Musicians Peter Power, and Christiane O’Mahony, the latter sounding sublime on harp, help lend Scannell’s lacklustre tunes something of substance. As does Scannell on guitar and keyboards. But it’s not enough to elevate “The Bluffer’s Guide to Suburbia” into anything resembling what Scanell and Creed are capable of on their better days.
Scanell was on the money describing the one track, self-indulgent Finn as a soured, misanthropic anti-hero. At one point a series of TV screens repeatedly pulse the word ‘dull’ over and over. Which about sums it up.
“The Bluffer’s Guide to Suburbia” by Ray Scannell with Once Off Productions in association with Cork Midsummer Festival and The Everyman runs as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2019 at Project Arts Centre until October 4.