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  • Chris O'Rourke

Reboot Live: Episode Two

Reboot Live: Episode Two. Image uncredited.

FM/Cynthia's Lamp/Waiting For The Man

Reboot Live: Episode Two sees a host of familiar faces deliver three short works performed under Covid restrictions. If two make for an awkward fit for the shorter format, one finds itself cracking the short format code far more successfully. With each delivering some memorable moments, and some genuinely outstanding performances.

Kicking off with Finbarr Doyle and Jeda de Bri's engaging FM, this taut tale proves the most successful, structurally, for confining its action to real time. That time being 3.00 am as a late night, pirate DJ invites callers to talk about their problems. A Jeremy Kyle in the making, Frank is a talk radio disaster, played by Doyle himself, who won't be getting a job with the Samaritans anytime soon. The woman with the dream of drowning, the woman who watched a man die, or the woman who gets tongue tied every time she calls reveal Frank's penchant for sensationalism overriding his sincerity. If it all has a donut sized hole that makes for a bit of an ask at the end, it still crosses the line with distance to spare. Due, in no small measure, to a compelling Meg Healy, scrolling through characters with convincing ease. Director de Bri's framing might feel more like two conjoined monologues rather than a dialogue at times, but it's a strong choice that reinforces FM's standing as a study in loneliness. Something the end rushes a little too quickly, and not all that convincingly, to resolve. But, by then, this production supported by Fishamble, has already won you over.

Meg Healy in FM. Image by Cate Reid

Victim of its own ambition, Ken Harmon's meandering Cynthia's Lamp sees a terrific Sorcha Furlong deliver a scintillating portrayal of a broken woman trying to get out from under controlling men. The abusive Marsh, whom she loves, and the Accidental Magic practitioner, Jordache, each know what's best for Cynthia. Yet Cynthia is beginning to discover her own inner magic, so the men may want to watch out. Feeling like chronological scenes from a much larger work, often with gaps in between, Harmon's fractured script trips over itself as it slides in and out of being a compelling drama and an episode of Sabrina The Teenage Witch. In which a delightful Colm O'Brien delivers a wonderfully nuanced performance as Cynthia's guru without a clue, Jordache. Throughout, Furlong and O'Brien are a joy to watch, and under Peter Reid's direction Harmon's script has more than a few fine moments, even if it tries, too often, to cover far too much ground.

Sorcha Furlong in Cynthia's Lamp. Image by Cate Reid

Another engaging study in loneliness sees Pat Nolan deliver a wonderfully sensitive script in Waiting For The Man, in which a lot gets said by two men often to avoid saying anything serious. Set in a Men's Shed, Waiting For The Man explores a friendship between men reared never to feel anything good about themselves. Retired for different reasons, the older Paddy, a sublime Pat Nolan, and the younger Gerry, a terrific Steve Gunn, discover one morning that they might have some things in common. As bird boxes get built and the shovel gets breast fed, will there be time enough for them to learn how to really talk and connect? If director Sean Roper Nolan elicits strong performances from his superb cast, juxtaposing Nolan's loud agitation with the resigned restraint of Gunn, some overly busy staging proves hugely problematic. Even allowing for opening night snafus, overworked song and light changes are often shoehorned in, disrupting flow into awkwardly fragmented scenes begging for simpler, cleaner transitions. Even so, the calibre of performances keep bringing you resolutely back, and Nolan's script, which has huge potential for further development, has some very fine moments indeed.

Steve Gunn and Pat Nolan in Waiting For The Man. Image uncredited.

Even without allowing for the conditions under which these works were created and performed, the standard is impressively high. Indeed, seeing a live body in a space performing to an audience is just a joy after so long, especially when performances are this good. Each infused with an unadulterated love for the stage. For "Reboot Live 2020" is not about getting the perfect show onstage, but about getting back onstage and trying to work under new, imposed conditions. They deserve your support. Not just in principle, but because the work is good enough to justify buying a ticket for a show or a live stream. You know you should.

Reboot Live 2020 runs at The International Bar on various dates till September 13.

Episode Two runs August 28 and 30, and will be live streamed on August 30.

For more information, visit Reboot Live 2020.


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