It was a whore of a night.
The kind of night where a rain soaked wind blows a jeep sideways on the N11 and the heater mists the windscreen so that you nearly plough into the orange cones that have diverted traffic into Carlow town.
The Sat Nav was on cocaine.
She tried and tried to bring us in ever decreasing circles around the town - always within spitting distance of the theatre we are bound for, but then frustratingly away, again and again as she shouts turn left, turn left. She led us a merry dance in a hurricane down roads that are named for Pollerton, Staplestown Graigcullen and Dublin, and streets that are named for Tullow and Burrin.
I know this town.
Since I was a child I have been driven up the roads from Wexford to my Mothers home in “The Crescent” named for Killian.
Oylegate, Enniscorthy, Bunclody, Kildavin, Ballon, and Carla recited like a Mantra as we drove at speed over potholes you could lose a wheelbarrow in, rattling around unrestrained in the backs of Austin 1100s and Renault 4’s to the County of the Poppies, where my Uncle Eugene “Girly” Dooley threw slices of cooked ham and corned beef around his butchers shop to the headscarfed women chatting on the deep window sill.
My heroic chauffeur is also my long suffering producer and she is charmingly treble jobbing as per. Consuming a cup of tay and an apple slice for dinner on a garage forecourt, driving in heavy rain, explaining she can’t look at the photo just now, listening and trying to respond to the full on ranter in the front seat who is lounging against the glass a la Oscar Wilde, pontificating and smoking out the window in a torrential downpour, trying to decipher the road signs at speed.
“I am usually driven” says I as I sit up and get ready to guide her in to the familiar town.
- There’s Askea where we went to Mass sometimes, and Willie Rath has a shop over there you’d drive a hunnerd miles to buy Pavlovas in. There’s where the chipper was called “Cod Almighty” and down here on the right was a shop run by sisters called “Coogans” where I’d be sent for the block of Raspberry Ripple and a packet of wafers. McDarbys here on the left was where we’d get cones and the Sunday papers on the way back from the Cathedral……
I pause as we pass the turn off for the Crescent as the house is now empty, and in darkness.
A momentary shiver goes through me as I remember the loss of my Mother, and then only months later her youngest sister, the last Dooley in the Crescent.
It was being driven to read her Coroners report that I found the prop I needed for my own play.
“These are a hardy bunch” I say proudly alighting from the jeep as the wind battles me for custody of the door. I have spotted the trickles and pairings and determined walkers who are bent over running through the icy night to the warmth of a foyer. Inside is bright and cosy and a throng of interesting looking types are milling about in the modern bar. The bookshop is like an art installation and I frighten the bejesus out of an assistant by looming over her enquiring like JR Hartley if my own book is in stock still.
“I can see it from here” cries the producer as she runs up the stairs as the bell rings.
The Carla crowd are determined to enjoy the theatre.
They’re done up like dolls in capes and hats and are having a few scoops for themselves. They are making an evening of the event. And it IS an event.
I have been reading and hearing about Pat Kinevane for years.
The guy is outrageously talented and driven and I have watched the trailers for his Trilogy in disbelief.
He has worked and performed all over the world and has been nominated and won too many awards to list here for his superb performances, in collaboration with his long term Director Jim Culleton of Fishamble.
I have never laid eye nor glove on him.
Theatre is probably the last communal thing an audience shares.
As any actor will affirm the time spent on stage is so completely in the moment, in the recalling of the words, the phrases, the line, after line, after line, the moves, the blocking, the mark, the spot, centrestage - the presence of being in just this one moment, under the lights, listening to the audience breathe.
The play becomes a meditation.
We have become so inured to engaging with the technology we hold in our hands, the tiny silicone chip that controls and consumes our waking hours that we have become isolated from a community. We watch films on our phones, and we film everything, inherently knowing we will never watch, let alone edit the footage. We have reduced our interaction to a party of one. Mass used to be a shared experience, something comforting and nostalgic about the huddled warmth, the flickering candles, the mumbled responses, the creaking of knee and kneeler.
But that is in Brigadoon now.
The audience is in for a treat at the Premiére of “BEFORE”
Kinevane is both revelation and chameleon.
His is a black mass and he is the grand master.
He cajoles and simpers.
They lean in. They laugh, oh lord how they laugh.
The man beside me is in a hoop.
He is answering Kinevane from Row K as if he was chatting to him outside Haddens.
Because Pat is doing what he does best, leading and driving them and letting them in.
Infamous for his blurring of the Fourth Wall, he engages with them, repeating a line that gets a loud laugh, laughing infectiously himself before shouting so loud I fear for his throat, mocking, piteous and sneering because he has a face that will do anything it likes whenever it likes.
The direction is dignified and gentle and allows the performer full scope to display an array of emotion and mood. The lighting fantastic, particularly during the dancing which is revelatory.
(He credits choreographer Emma O Kane with gifting him with the gift of stamina he needs for the performance)
He is up-lit by a centre spot so that his giant reflection moves behind him like a puppet master -underpinning and magnifying the spinning pirouettes, the jazz hands, the swagger of Gene Kelly, a tango maestro, the tap dancer, the child, the solo performer poignantly driven by a higher power, a shadow self.
Kinevane is so comfortable on stage he can lie on his back getting his breath while the audience holds theirs.
He can sing and laugh and scream and put a pair of tights on his arms that I could have sworn for a heart stopping moment became a pair of female legs.
He can create characters as unforgettable as “The Pelican” who “stole all around her by putting it in her mouth”
As an ornery contrarian who is considered to be a mules tool (always out) I rarely attend stage productions unless I am prancing around on one myself.
I am driven berserk by crowds and theatre etiquette. I have not attended a cinema in 28 years because of other people. People who cough, or eat, or laugh when it’s not funny, or rustle in reeking popcorn, and put their feet up against the back of your seat and talk steadily through the entire film asking endlessly what’s going on. People who try to open sucky sweets slowly, merely prolonging the agony, people who refuse under pain of death to turn off their phones.
I watch documentaries alone. I am a people watcher. I am watching Pat like a hawk.
And I am watching the audience.
I am coming to stand alone on this stage myself.
I could do with a heads up about how the people of the Poppy County react to One Man Shows.
Or One Mahon Shows.
It takes a whiff of madness and balls of steel to stand alone onstage for a crowd who have removed themselves from firesides and gone out in a gale to pay paper folding money to be entertained, amused, shocked, informed and to be part of a community for a brief moment, to feel the warmth of other bodies in the tiers, the heady aroma of perfumes, aftershaves and cigarettes settling into a pleasant fug, mingling with the wisps from the smoke machine like a spectral presence across a blackened stage.
Kinevane has both in spades.
He has lights on his hands now for Christs sake and he’s being the Clery’s Clock,
ticking endlessly in the dark on the last day of business in the iconic store.
He’s singing about hating fucking musicals with a sublime orchestration from the RTE Concert Orchestra.
That he has written a thing of beauty is a given.
That it captures the zeitgeist of nostalgia, current affairs, memory, maleness, aloneness, fatherhood, and loss is a thing of beauty in itself.
The audience doesn’t know whether it has lost a horse or found a rope itself as they respond to his endlessly altering mood and humour, and in the closing minutes are laid waste by the denouement and are on their feet in a sustained ovation.
Applause is like heroin.
And in the act of clapping an audience reminds itself to be in the body, to feel the sting of the hands, to be present in this moment, to share a human experience, and to come out of the endlessly thinking mind and simply be.
After the second glass of Merlot I am escorted to his dressing room by the artistic director of the theatre. This is no exhausted performer sadly rubbing make up off in a lonely room, not for him a speedy heading for the hills in the back of a car. The place is full. Of people, and laughter and glasses. He is singing and dancing and pleading for someone to mind his stuff and give him a drink.
I recognise the feeling.
An actor it has been said is one who knows all the lines of a play but not necessarily what order they come in. I know myself that if I am in scene 2 I can’t be fretting about scene 9 or I will be lost.
Kinevane would never be lost because as much as he displays for us he reserves for himself.
He is aware that he is a projection of source energy in physical form and he is magnificent in his mortality.
His eyes are the darkest chocolate I have ever seen and he is animated, jocular, and irrepressible as we wander the warren of backstage corridors like children following the Pied Piper to drink in “The Clink”
I wanted to hear the Carla voices.
My Grandfather was an Asylum Keeper.
He and his 8 sons, the Dooley men drank in the Club or Carpenters and had a feed in Reddys after funerals or wakes. I thought I might like to sit on a torn leather stool beside a Super Ser at a scratched counter in the Railway and hear the voices of long ago, as if in some way it would bring my Mother and all the Dooleys back again, and the dark house in the Crescent would light up again with their memories.
Ironic as he and 3 of his daughters would be afflicted with the bastard that is Alzheimers.
I am in the cocktail bar of a boutique hotel that has a dressed Christmas tree in the porch.
“In the name of Christ will you look at this!” I announce - perilously waving a Jameson in a heavy crystal glass around and asking random men on the path do they know any Dooleys.
The team from Fishamble have that heady nervous energy and adrenalin following the success and delight of the night they have worked towards for months and in the excitement of waving hands and voices and laughter I am reminded of the magic of theatre and of my heroic producer who has to remove me from the building post haste as we have a date with a Sat Nav that wants to bring us home by the scenic route.
I thank everyone and gather my belongings and my wits.
One of the tech crew who has arrived late after the Get Out and long after the baskets of chicken and sundries have been passed over heads says to me he knew a butcher called Dooley once who used to throw slices of cooked ham and corned beef to headscarfed women chatting on the deep window sill and I smile.
MDM November 9th 2018
*While being driven to read the coroners report on the sudden death of my youngest Dooley Aunt I was fretting about the adaptation of my memoir into a stage play which had been commissioned by Wexford Arts Centre. The writing of the play did for me what my Mothers death could not. It silenced me. I needed an in. A key. A way of showing not telling the enormity of the story and had implored the heavens to send me a miracle.
Rounding a bad bend a mile outside Carlow town we found a naked doll with a caved in face in the middle of the road. She had been repeatedly driven over judging by the tyre marks on her chest. She is a ringer for my Mother. I called her Vonnie Dooley. She is the star of the show. *
BEFORE written and performed by Pat Kinevane is on a Nationwide tour at present.
Details of events and booking www.fishamble.com
THIS is what Pat and the entire team were singing on the way out ..................