- Chris O'Rourke
My First Holy Covid
Bridging The Distance
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the arts community have been enduring some desperate times in recent months. Indeed, if necessity is the mother of invention, it proved to be the handmaiden of reinvention as many took their trades online. Sometimes to interesting effect, particularly dance and opera. Theatre, not always so much. From The Abbey Theatre's Dear Ireland, to Fishamble: The New Play Company's Tiny Plays 24/7, Lyric Theatre Belfast's Splendid Isolations to The New Theatre's Fight Back Festival, there were certainly some impressive highs. But also quite a few lows. Moments whose lack of invention spoke to an obvious desperation with working online. The new abnormal did not suit everyone.
Now, just as many artists are coming to terms with the challenges of working online, the first strainings towards a return to live performance are making themselves heard. Brainchild of Peter Reid, Reboot Live aims to create live performances before a socially distanced audience. Artistic Director of the No Touching Theatre Festival, Belfast based Ciara Elizabeth Smyth is looking to do something similar. Bewleys Cafe Theatre @Irish Georgian Society and Smock Alley Theatre are also preparing for live audiences, and more are on the way. But beating them all to the punch is Breadline and Dublin City Council's "My First Holy Covid," which brings live performances to socially distant, residential audiences in South inner-city Dublin.
Written and starring TKB, and featuring Ericka Roe, this timely two hander explores the impact of Covid on the biggest event in the Irish fashion calendar. Forget Paris Fashion Week, the real style is to be found during Holy Communion season, when boys and girls, and those who identify differently, become catwalk Catholics. Strutting their style, making their first confession, Summer-Breeze Fagan and Reece Howard (whose full name sounds like a Welsh village) are determined to make it the best day of their short lives so far. Culminating in the best party ever. Only they hadn't factored in Covid-19.
Image by John Fay
Showing TKB's hallmark exuberance, "My First Holy Covid" comes at you with fast laughs, funny insights and observations of utter fabulousness. With costumes designed by TKB, executed to perfection by Ericka Roe's impressively talented mother, you could be forgiven for thinking you'd arrived at a wedding. But it soon becomes obvious that if Summer-Breeze and Reece have been friends most of their lives, its only been for the last four years when they started school. Yet the comic chemistry and call-and-response timing between TKB and Roe is again so palpable, at moments they resemble an old married couple. Or Des Keogh and Rosaleen Linehan. Or Abbot and Costello. But with nerves of steel.
With shades of Give Up Your Aul Sins, and evocative of Eoin Colfer's Holy Mary, "My First Holy Covid" offers a respectfully irreverent take on making your first Holy Communion. Produced as part of Dublin City Council's Story On Your Door initiative, which aims to reimagine residential areas in the city and bring theatre to new spaces, the twenty minute piece is performed several times each day at a number of secret locations for resident of South Dublin's inner city. On Tuesday, Oliver Bond House saw the twenty minute show move to various locations in the flats. And if front of house audiences didn't always look huge, the balconies more than compensated.
At twenty minutes you are never going to get huge character or narrative depth. Yet what you do get is a really good time that tries bridging the distance created by Covid. As well as other, exclusionary distances. If less a story and more a sketch, "My First Holy Covid" delivers two hugely engaging performances with lots of laughs. The end might rush itself a little, but the build up is often terrifically good. A song, dance, and comedy double act with vaudevillian stylings, "My First Holy Covid" delivers good fun, good laughs, and hopefully signals a return to more good times ahead.
"My First Holy Covid" by TKB, featuring Ericka Roe, presented by Breadline and Dublin City Council, plays at a number of secret locations in South inner-city Dublin until July 31.