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  • Chris O'Rourke

I Could Have Been A Dancer

David Greene in I Could Have Been A Dancer. Image Al Craig.


There's a play, urgently needed, about suicide, depression and substance abuse in the modern male. As well as their struggles with sexuality, male relationships and an inherent sense of failure. Despite some honest ambitions, I Could Have Been A Dancer, performed and adapted by David Greene, isn’t it. It wants to be, but its theatrical and textual immaturity leave it floundering. Proving that if misery loves company, the feeling isn't always mutual.

For Shane, everything is shit, as he tells you often enough. Details of his eat, drink and be miserable life recounted with the same rigour as a What I Did On My Summer Holidays essay. Which might account for why Shane flunked his Leaving Cert, leaving him short on points for college. But college is shit too. As is his job. Leaving the insular Shane, and dropout Ger, salvaging their friendship by getting wasted. Throughout, deeper themes land with the same impact as a game of Knick Knack. The street-game where you run up to a strangers door, ring the bell in anticipation, then run away as fast as you can before getting caught in anything resembling a real confrontation. Like alternate masculinities. Or a woman who's other than a momentary walk on in Shane's life. The end result evoking less sympathy so much as a feeling of being trapped on a Nite-link with an oversharing drunk acting like a victim for problems they created. Indeed, by the time he starts rationalising his self-absorbed misery in terms of cosmic loneliness you're apt to think; "loneliness sounds good round about now, if it means you getting off at the next stop."

David Greene in I Could Have Been A Dancer. Image Al Craig.

Partially inspired by Sean Tanner's award winning story of the same name, the original's punchiness and clear focus are heavily diluted for being cobbled with other Tanner tales. With Greene showing too much reverence for the stories and too little understanding of how to adapt them for the stage. Like borrowed Bukowski, or secondhand Hunter S. Thompson, but without the excitement or risk, Greene serves up dysfunctional males without really interrogating masculinity. More Jay and Silent Bob trying to play serious, but without their cleverness or charm. Greene relying on his boyish charm and humour which don't quite carry the day. Director Michelle Lucy digs deep and crafts some memorable moments, trying to compensate for what's not always there. But the uneven fragments never cohere into a confident whole. The set design might suggest a web, but it matters little with Greene often appearing averse to the stage, never quite owning it. Coming in from the rear of the auditorium, and taking forever, a sappy dance to Sean Kobina's lacklustre score saps far more interest than it generates. Sitting on the edge of the stage like an uninvited guest, or running backstage for no apparent reason, Greene often looks uncomfortable and in desperate need for something to push against. Cathy O'Carroll's lights becoming an uncharacteristic car crash, trying to fill in too many mental and emotional gaps. Moments when lights land strongly contrasting with times they impair, shadow or confuse.

While Ger provides deadpan humour, with Greene switching effortlessly between roles, I Could Have Been A Dancer reaffirms that delusional drunks are rarely as funny, or as interesting, as they are to themselves. Their relived hangovers passed off as insight a one trick pony you quickly tire of. To say it trivialises male issues would be to go too far, but it's pretty reductive and lacks real discernment. Or anything akin to the ironic knowing of Tanner's original story, whose self-fulfilling prophesy bleeds pathos. Skimming the surface, swimming in boat loads of industrial strength self-pity, I Could Have Been A Dancer, like Shane, doesn't dance all that well. Yet Lucy and Greene show serious promise. Suggesting better things to come.

I Could Have Been A Dancer, performed and adapted by David Greene, runs at The New Theatre until August 20.

For more information visit The New Theatre


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