- Chris O'Rourke
Three Short Comedies
Rory Nolan and Aaron Monaghan in A Pound on Demand: Three Short Comedies by Sean O'Casey. Image by Ste Murray.
Two drunks attempt to withdraw a pound from a questionable post office account. A man with notions of respectability is desperately trying to get rid of the woman he just slept with. Two strapping men set about showing a woman how housework should be done. In all cases disaster and hilarity ensues. Injecting some madcap mayhem into the season, Druid Theatre go all out for laughs with a trio of slapstick comedies from Sean O'Casey, aptly called Three Short Comedies. Resembling cinematic shorts from the best years of Laurel and Hardy, they owe so much to Hal Roach it almost borders on plagiarism.
Liam Heslin in Bedtime Story: Three Short Comedies by Sean O'Casey. Image by Ste Murray
Written between the late 1930s and early 1950s, a modest mental adjustment is required to accommodate some of the values and perceptions of the time. The Irish as dirty, devious drunks, fallen women dragging men to their ruin. Stereotypes with which O'Casey punctures notions of respectability, particularly those of the masculine male. A Pound on Demand (1939), in which Rory Nolan and Aaron Monaghan make for a brilliant drunken double act, sees Jerry and Sammy engage in moral combat with Sarah Morris's paragon of outrage and punctuality. Exceeded in indignation only by a strait-laced Venetia Bowe as post mistress. Needless to say, the boys never stand a chance.
Aaron Monaghan and Sarah Morris in Bedtime Story: Three Short Comedies by Sean O'Casey. Image by Ste Murray
Nor does Monaghan as the panicked John Jo Mulligan in Bedtime Story (1951), a man who sinned in haste and is repenting in leisure. Rushing around in the dark trying to urge Morris's gold digger of a hussy, Angela Nightingale, to take the walk of shame, quietly, during the early hours of the morning. Looking as if Howard from Last Of The Summer Wine had finally got together with Marina only for her to turn into his worse nightmare; Morris and Monaghan making for an inspired comedy double act. As do Rory Nolan and Marty Rea in The End of the Beginning (1937), an unashamedly slapstick tale of male disaster in which Darry and Barry Derrill bring the house down in more ways than one.
Rory Nolan and Marty Rea in The End of the Beginning: Three Short Comedies by Sean O'Casey. Image by Ste Murray.
Even allowing for the conventions of their times, O'Casey's comedies stand up remarkably well. Due in no small measure to a fantastic cast, despite their plastered on Dublin accents. Monaghan is never better than when's he's drunk or desperate, showing perfect timing, physically and comedically, in two detailed performances. Morris shines throughout, setting each scene alight. Nolan, who oozes comedy from his pores, is well matched in Marty Rea, and earlier Monaghan, in two hilarious routines. Liam Heslin and Venetia Bowe, often operating as straight foils to the mayhem around them, both shine.
Sarah Morris, Venetia Bowe, Rory Nolan and Aaron Monaghan in A Pound on Demand: Three Short Comedies by Sean O'Casey. Image by Ste Murray.
Most impressive of all is Garry Hynes' detailed and rigorous direction. Reflected throughout the production, with Francis O'Connor's set and costumes, Jame F. Ingalls' lights, Gregory Clarke's sound, Conor Linehan's music, even Grainne Coughlan's hair and make-up offering a masterclass in precision and exactitude. Investing each short with the same rigour as any full length Druid production. No half measures here. Making the short interval between each story time well spent.
Touring till December 18, Three Short Comedies serves up some serious slapstick with lashings of laughter. Enjoyable anytime of year, it taps into that seasonal nostalgia wherein we fondly remember easier times. And who couldn't do with a little of that this year?
Three Short Comedies by Sean O'Casey, directed by Garry Hynes, presented by Druid Theatre is currently on tour.
Pavilion, Dun Laoghaire, December 8-11
Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny, December 14-15
Jerome Hynes Theatre, National Opera House, Wexford, December 17-18
For more information visit Druid Theatre.