Thursday, September 15, 2016

Dick Walsh Theatre and Pan Pan, 'George Bush and Children': The Talkshow Must Go On

Opinions collide in Dick Walsh's new play about talkshows. It's easy to laugh from a distance. Photo: Jaesin Yu. 

Project Arts Centre, Tiger Dublin Fringe
Sep 12-17

A quick review of George Bush and Children by Dick Walsh coming up just as soon as I remember having a good time being energy ...

No matter how personal your beliefs and experiences, odds are someone else will have something contrary to stay about them. What exploits this more often than talkshows, the broadcasting genre where opinions collide, leaving the audience either nodding in agreement or curled up in the foetal position? Funnily, the same could be said about theatre. 

Dick Walsh, a nerveless playwright, suspects where the medium and live art overlap: they’re both theatrical. His new play, produced in association with Pan Pan, hands verbatim talkshow transcripts to a cast odd and absorbing in the absurdist style, making strenuous claims such as George Bush being a paedophile. It’s easy to laugh at farcical facts from a distance. For those personally affected, it can be a different story entirely.

Tom O’Brien’s set invites us to consider the ethics of looking on, its large mirrors reflecting spectators as studio audience. Supporters sound off on pound-shop sex toys and legalised prostitution for the disabled while their opponents try to scandalise. There’s drive in the hard-fought cases of Gráinne Hallahan and industrious workings of Oddie Braddell, in the threatening glance of Shane Connolly and sanguine matter-of-factness of Fionnuala Flaherty. Lurking under the surface is the truth or gestus, the alienation felt from hearing the personal made conceptual, the need to pull a jumper over your head at mention of painful topics such as abortion. 

It doesn’t fully work. Such minutiae was momentous in Walsh’s previous play Newcastlewest, an anaesthetised portrayal of youth unemployment and dependency. What we find under the surface here isn’t as compelling; there’s less distress between what’s said and what’s gestured, less laughter out of cruelty. 

What did everybody else think?

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