Dublin Fringe Festival 2023: Shauna Carrick Wants A Dog
Shauna Carrick in Shauna Carrick Wants A Dog. Image by Earl Echivarre
Shauna Carrick wants a dog. Not really. What Shauna Carrick really wants is to be the central character in her own story. Or her own musical, aptly entitled Shauna Carrick Wants A Dog, with a book cowritten with Conor O’Rourke. Thirty, tired, still troubled by teenage angst, Shauna has moved back home from London having failed to become a musical superstar. Anxious about going outside, believing her future is already behind her, Shauna makes an existential to-do list to change her life. Planning a hero’s journey to being her bestest, Bridget Jones styled self. Making lists, projected as Powerpoint, affording her an illusion of control. Forgetting that if you want to make God laugh, tell Her your plans. That self improvement is like smoking, scratching an itch you probably created in the first place. Resulting from not accepting the cold, hard facts about yourself. Including, in this instance, that Shauna Carrick is utterly, completely and shamelessly obscene. It being utterly, completely and shamelessly obscene that one person should have this much talent. The likeable Carrick - playwright, songwriter, singer, performer, comedian - leaving lesser mortals emerald with envy.
Not that Carrick always lives up to her talents. Despite a cast of three, and two live musicians, book again serves up the ready made formula of the one person play. Another quirky, funny confessional aspiring towards a happy ever after. In which, despite her self-deprecations, it’s all about Shauna. No bad thing as Carrick is smart, funny, and endearingly unsure of herself. Yet the balance gets skewed, like listening to a pubescent teen trapped in a thirty year old body. Even her friends are all about Shauna. The yoga loving Clare, a scene stealing Ciara Lyons, downing her dog while messaging Shauna relentlessly with updates on her own successful life. Clare, in Shauna’s mind, fit in all the ways she will never be. More likely to attract pretty boy barista Sam, who Shauna is developing a crush on. A complying Seán Mac Dhonnagáin less a character so much as a device. A cardboard cut out of the perfect boyfriend. Saying all the right things Shauna needs to hear, most of the time, like a pre-recorded android. But will that be enough for Shauna to follow her dreams, fall in love, find her dog? Or will the same old story see her writing the same old story?
Like the rest of the cast, Carrick’s voice is never as full as her brilliant songs; voices frequently muffled beneath two musicians playing live onstage. Even so, Carrick’s songs are exceptional, funny, smartly constructed and eminently singable. If Niamh O’Farrell-Tyler’s set risks it all looking like a show tunes singalong at Marie’s Crisis, under Mollie Molumby’s accomplished direction the whole is elevated into something robust. Molumby’s use of props, composition and movement ensuring it all coheres into something charmingly irresistible. Even though, with Carrick straddling an uneasy divide between adult and teenager, the ending sticks in the throat. When Carrick explores her personal depths in songs about struggling to sleep, or pathetic first dates, they resonate with recognition. Yet the tidied up, psychobabble ending, as if read from a questionable self-help pamphlet, feels forced and imposed. As if switching to Next to Normal from The Sound of Music. Even as it’s careful to avoid a musical big finish.
Carrick might be relatively unknown, but those with their nose to the musical theatre grind will have heard of her promising Tír na nÓg at Mill Theatre, Dundrum that sank prematurely due to COVID. A bad break, but it got the rumour mill started about a serious new talent. Like God, if you want to laugh, check out Shauna Carrick making plans in Shauna Carrick Wants A Dog. Knowing it utterly, completely and shamelessly obscene if we’re not all singing Carrick’s show tunes in the coming years.
Shauna Carrick Wants A Dog, presented by Aon Scéal Theatre, runs at Smock Alley Theatre as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2023 until September 18.