V COMEDY ’ A D't L'k
It s I I e This Death and madness, drinking and teenage insecurity - all loom large in the fact-Is-definitely-stranger-than- fiction worldview of Northern Irish comic Owen O’Neill. O’Neill has been based In london for over ten years
now and is keen to get away from being viewed simply as an Irish
comedian. ‘You don’t ask a plumber if '
he’s an Irish plumber,’ he says, taking 2
a breather from an Edinburgh warm-up show in london’s Battersea Arts Centre. Nevertheless, his relaxed, anecdotal manner draws heavily on what he assures us are true-to-life tales of life in small town County Tyrone. And growing up in a sixteen- child Northern Irish Catholic household hasn’t limited the broader appeal of the surreal yarns he spins in ‘lt’s A Bit like This . . .’
That’s not to say that he ignores the Troubles and their impact on what passes for normality in his hometown. The IRA and Orange fundamentalists with an overbearing passion for the word ‘No’ both come in for scathing abuse. Nis helpful advice to Protestants who might be frightened by the power of the Catholic Church is pretty simple: ‘So are we, and we’re Catholic.’
Owen O'Neill: orange talk O’Neill has already received
.| recognition at the Fringe, winning the
Critics’ Award for Best Comedy for his 1991 theatrical collaboration with Sean Hughes, ‘Patrick’s Day’. The following year the O’Neill-penned ‘Shooting To Stardom’ won Best Irish Short Film Award at the Cork Film Festival.
Another ex-pat with attitude and a reluctant member of the burgeoning comedy ‘Murphia’, O’Neill is out to prove that he’s much more than a ‘poor Catholic lad with orange hair.’ (Stan Ferguson)
It’s A Bit like This . . . (Fringe) Owen O’Neill, Gilded Balloon II, Stepping Stones (Venue 51) 225 5520, 12 Aug-3 Sept (not 22 and 30), 10.30pm, £5 (£5).
Stiff: true crime as TV drama Angelic Productions could find their Fringe contribution ‘Stiff’ lnadvertently fanning the flames In the ongoing film and TV censorship debate. On the one hand, the character of Elie should never have been allowed near the TV reconstruction of her friend Tina’s disappearance, never mind acted In it, if her subsequent psychological role- playing with flatmate Cube Is anything to go by. On the other, if she hadn’t been exposed to it, then nothing else would happen in the play.
Playwright Lavinia Murray ponders
the pros and cons of ‘Crimewatch’- style broadcasting: ‘it’s good that information comes forward but I would question the format they take. If you
put real crime on television, even if
it’s a reconstruction then immediately
you’re being voyeuristic. Nightly or
wrongly people are drawn to
observing, in the same way they will i stand and watch a car accident.’
Inevitany there’s more to ‘Stiff’ than
the surface plot. Murray sees Elie’s
dilemma as one of identity, putting
herself In her friend’s shoes to get to
grips with her own place.
‘Women have been liberated,’ she says. ‘A lot of money is made now on advice on what to do with freedom but
it’s a very confused freedom.’
Murray herself is successfully
building a reputation for her writing. ‘ As well as this Fringe First, she has ; two new plays ready to go Into
production in London and a
forthcoming Radio 4 broadcast of ‘The Lost Children’, based on her
observations at a women’s prison. She blames her descendants for her mordant concerns.
“My grandfather was a half-
Argentinian, half-Glaswegian bareknuckle fighter and I think I take
' after him but with the pen - fighting
, for a living is probably in the blood. I
just hope the Scottish air doesn’t make me start hitting out at people.’ (Fiona Shepherd)
Stiff (Fringe) Angelic Productions, 3 Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550, 10
Aug—3 Sept (not 15 or 1), 10.45pm,
; 25m (24.50/E5.50).
4 v COMEDY
, AN EVENING or : UNPROTECTED SEX
Aside from a three-week splurge each summer. Edinburgh is a bit of a comedy vacuum. with a lack of comedy clubs. touring artists and homegrown artists to fill the pre- and post-Fringe lull. This year. though. has seen a number ofcabaret spots and clubs creep into the limelight. Gordon
Dempster and Jem Paker
had long wanted to open
their own comedy club. ever since first establishing a comedy troupe while at Edinburgh
University. The Bri-Nylon
Five were a typical
student revue. a mixture
of inspired irreverence and self-indulgent tosh. The last couple of years have seen their membership shrink but their experience grow:
Paker moved to London
and began contributing to
Radio 4‘s Wee/(ending;
Dempster commuted to
Stirling and started as a radio reporter. with a
special remit to cover
glamour ﬁxtures like
Falkirk v Stirling Albion.
Finally. after a long hunt
the duo opened The
Comedy Stop at Stepping
Stones in May of this
year. Since then. every
Saturday. they‘ve been
road-testing their material
in the comfort of their own club. They had better be marvellous by now (even if they are perfomiing ‘away from home'). But soft! There is an altruistic side to their plans to build a comedy empire to rival the Fringe's titanic trio (you know. the big venues with expensive tickets that are. cannily. even more expensive at weekends). ‘We‘re interested in developing our own 1 people.‘ says Paker. ‘and that‘s the advantage of 1 having the theatre environment — a lot of people are terrified about getting up in a busy bar
and being abused and
. having glasses thrown at them.‘ (Craig McLean)
r I An Evening Of
both of the Bri Nylon Five
Unprotected Sex (Fringe) Bri Nylon Five. Festival Club (Venue 36) 650 2395. I3 Aug—3 Sept.
1 1.45pm. £5 (£4).
v THEATRE o 0 LIVE
Volcano Theatre are the first word in physical
theatre. Raw emotions. tough. hard-edged movement and as radical as you like. Choice texts
Volcano: explosive physical ; theatre
add to the impact. Marx in L % Manifesto; Shakespeare in
1.0. V.E and this time round the ‘lesser known works' of Henrik Ibsen in the premiere of How to Live. directed by ex-DV8 man Nigel Chamock.
And just when you thought the whole ‘throw yourselfat a brick wall‘ physical theatre thing was getting a tad predictable. Chamock announces a change of tune. 'Volcano have done a lot of running around, sweating. screaming and shouting. and we wanted to do
3 something different.’ The 5 difference. according to
Chamock. is this:
5 ‘L.0.V.E. was about sex
and love and passionate things — How to Live has slightly less sex in it. it's
about bigger. cosmic
things like god. the meaning of life and death. And the whole thing’s a
lot more subtle.‘
Trust me when I say this
though: Volcano haven‘t
gone soft. Witness their
ﬂier: ‘How to live
promises to be — an offensively cynical. revoltingly suggestive and blasphemous piece of theatre.‘ l guess it‘s subtle if you whisper it. And as for Ibsen? ‘Probably
spinning in his grave.‘ says Chamock. (Ellie Carr)
I Now to live (Fringe) Volcano Theatre. Theatre Workshop (Venue 20) 226 5425. 11—27 Aug. 10pm. £6 (£4).
DIARY OF A NEW YORK QUEEN
‘l have a bit ofa problem with what‘s conventionally referred to as a gay play. because they tend to be well- meaning propaganda pieces for straight people. It‘s not particularly entertaining ifall your gays are nice and beamy and rosy and clean Iiving.‘ So says writer Neil Wallace. But then he discovered William Barber's novel Diary OfA New York Queen.
The hero isn‘t nice and beamy and rosy and clean living. and accordingly Wallace adapted it into a one-man show. ‘The play starts with Nicky throwing a temper tantrum because his older boyfriend has bought him a diary for Christmas instead of a red Missoni sweater. which is what he wanted.’ explains Wallace. A weekend in the country turns sour when the group get snowed in and Nicky is unable to check whether a fashion change has occurred on that Monday morning. But whilst Nicky might occasionally be objectionable. he’s always fascinating. as his diary of the subsequent year‘s love, gossip. sex. scandal. heartbreak and the latest designer labels records.
The production is driven by the energies of actor Harold Finley. who arrives in Edinburgh with critical notices pinned to him like. ‘To say Harold Finley is performing is an insult really.‘ Apparently his imitation of Tina Turner doing housework is quite remarkable too: even the ultimate New York Queen does a little bit ofclean-living. (Stephen Chester)
I Diary Of A New York 'Oueen (Fringe) Truly Fierce Productions. Church Hill Theatre (Venue 46) 447 0111.12 Aug—3 Sept. 10.15pm. £7 (£5).
/ c' Diary: fairy-tale of New York
55 The List 12—18 August 1994