WAAPA Roundhouse Theatre
reviewed by Neville Cohn
This production is as refreshing as a cold shower on a hot day.
A cast of 3rd-year WAAPA acting students embraced Mc Donagh’s play with relish.
Director Patrick Sutton has done wonders in securing memorable responses from his youthful cast – and while lilting accents did not always sound entirely convincing, the actors breathed often engagingly raucous life into the play.
In a nutshell, the story revolves around the eponymous hero – Billy Claven (played with very real understanding of the role by Felix Johnson) – who is seriously handicapped, lurching pitifully about the stage. He comes across as a gentle, likeable soul who, notwithstanding his disability and perhaps intellectual limitations, goes through life with a touching grace. His idea of a good time is to watch cows in the fields. To the surprise – and chagrin – of some of the townsfolk, Billy auditions successfully for a projected cinematic role. He is also doted on by two ageing spinsters who run a very modestly stocked general store.
Rushing about the stage tirelessly and loudly is Michael Abercrombie who seems positively to delight in playing the garrulous gossip Johnnypateenmike. This blabbermouth is the perfect foil to Rose Riley’s Mammy O’Dougal, Johnny’s nonagenarian, whiskey-sodden, bedridden mother whose awesome alcohol intake would surely kill off lesser mortals. Her cackles and astonishing imbibing brought the house down.
Cecilia Peters does wonders as Helen McCormick, altogether persuasive in conveying the character’s startling lack of grace and more than a hint of rebellious violence.
And there’s a touch of tragedy to Oscar Harris’ Babbybobby, whose wife has died of TB.
There’s not a dull moment in this engaging and often touching romp. Not the least of the pleasures of this production is the quality of its ensemble, the interplay of the protagonists; it lifts the performance well above the ordinary.
Simeon Brudenell’s lighting design is consistently effective.