David Fennelly's writing debut might just be one of the more accurate portrayals of Recession Ireland.
Bewley's Cafe Theatre
Mar 11-Apr 5
My review of Fishes by David Fennelly coming up just as soon as I tie up my GAA jersey into a belly top ...
Those of us who have been dependent on jobseekers allowance for a considerable time in the past 5 years may have found comfort in a numerical reality: there are thousands of other people in the same position. The unemployed young man at the heart of David Fennelly's writing debut is easily imagined as one of them. Furthermore, the smart stroke of Fishes is to trace the alienation felt by welfare claimants in recent times.
Consider Larry - the dressing gown-wearing, laid-off mechanic who's social exclusion has led him to rehearse conversations to himself in his drab flat. He greets the arrival of his dole officer Eldridge as if a confidante, continuously wandering from his questions and instead sharing the calamitous details of his personal life. It's awkwardness is humorous but it gives way to something else. When Larry pushes his inappropriate meditations about the loss of his job and his girlfriend onto the box-ticking civil servant, it crescendos comically but it's affect is pure pathos; anyone who has been dependent on the dole will connect with this play.
The production so discreetly retains a seriousness, even while reaching for laughs. Fennelly's turn as Larry never over exaggerates, and, impressively, neither does John Doran's near-virtuosic performance, who has to conjure a multitude of characters. It's balance of comedy and drama is also attributed to director John Morton, who proves an understanding of the nuances of both genres, while also spiriting up the physical interludes that knock his stagings into gear.
Impressively, it's trail is extensive as we're lead to the murky waters of alcohol abuse and perhaps the most accurate portrayal of the male psyche in Recession Ireland. As a drama about the demoralising realities of the economic crash, and of Irish masculinity as a result, Fishes feels highly relevant.
What did everybody else think?