Thomas Burns Scully
It took me three attempts to see ‘Python’ at the An Beal Bocht Cafe. Not an inconsiderable time investment, given its location in the Bronx at the end of the 1 Train. The first time I went to see it I had the wrong start time and so missed the show. The second time I was booked to go see it, the venue flooded before I got there. The third time, however, was the charm, and I’m glad I was able to find the time to go, because it was a fun little show. Something of a standalone in the Origin Theatre 1st Irish Festival in the that it was unrelentingly fluffy and the most cartoonish of all the shows in the festival. That’s not a criticism, however it was unexpected. The descriptions of the show paint it as an anarchic comic crime thriller, that and its atmospheric noir-y poster were a little misleading as to the show’s ambience. I was expecting a Tarantino affair, what I got was much sillier, like if Graham Linehan were to write a ‘Breaking Bad’ parody episode of ‘Father Ted’. Again, no bad thing, but not what I was expecting. As I said before, I liked ‘Python’, it was light, silly and funny.
The play is the story of a university criminology professor called Daniel (Paul Nugent). One night he decides to tag along on a night patrol with his police officer friend Marshall (David O’Hara). Whilst out in the rough part of town, the pair of them stumble on the beaten-up body of “Python” (Mark Byrne) a notorious local drug-dealer. He asks them for help, and they take him in to custody. At the police station, things take a turn for the strange. Daniel suddenly becomes initiated in to Dublin’s criminal underworld, meeting Python’s associates Shingles (Conor McManus) and Vinny the Pole (Laurence Lowry) and he finds, to his surprise, that he quite likes the whole affair.
Brendan Connellan’s script is replete with good gags, plenty of comic hyperbole and silly references. He makes light of overly image conscious crime-lords and the fraught nature of modern male masculinity, keeping the audience giggling throughout. Occasionally he flirts with the idea of the play having a message or a moral, but while he flirts he doesn’t get much past second base. I’m in two minds as to whether or not I’m okay with this. On the one hand the play is funny enough that it stands up well as is, needs no apology or summation, and why do stories need morals anyway? On the other, with the groundwork already laid there, I’d bet the devil my head that a moral would come quite naturally to the story without cheating it of much comedy. A little food for though, but more a light snack than a full meal.
Performances are strong across the board. Paul Nugent’s giddy schoolboy enthusiasm at a newfound sense of empowerment is great fun to watch. O’Hara’s work as Marshall is a neat study in the comedy of two steps forward, nine steps back. Both Conor McManus and Laurence Lowry play Irish Thug types whose veneer of badassery is surprisingly quick to come off; highly enjoyable character turns, both. Mark Byrne plays Python like an Irish football hooligan, and is generally fun. There’s a nice edge to the role though, Byrne plays Python like someone who, in another time, would have gotten in to the IRA, rather than drug dealing. Although there was something funny going on with his voice, maybe it was just the day I saw it, but he sounded like he was working a hair too hard to appear the Irish Tough, which I found slightly distracting. Other than that, all good.
Director Don Creedon has put together the show very nicely, especially considering his limited resources. The An Beal Bocht cafe is a lovely locale, but there’s no getting away from how small the space is, particularly the stage. To that end, Creedon’s staging is highly minimal, no notable set to speak of, and he has obviously encouraged his cast to use the centre aisle of the theatre in lieu of a thrust. All this creates a feeling of space that the An Beal Bocht wouldn’t otherwise have. You can feel the actors straining at their restrictions, but he makes it work. Creedon also keeps the show’s timing and pace nice and tight. The runtime is a tidy eighty minutes (give or take) and everything moves swiftly in the mean time. Good bit of work.
Overall, I’d stick by my initial assessment of ‘Python’. It’s like the nonexistent ‘Breaking Bad’ episode of ‘Father Ted’. It is a set of slightly dysfunctional but lovable characters getting themselves accidentally mixed up with organized crime, falling in over their heads, and then one of them finds out he quite enjoys it. What could be more Saturday Night on BBC 2? I found the whole affair rather enjoyable. Light, fun, and inconsequential in a good way. Every now and then you need a good giggle, and that’s what ‘Python’ delivers.
‘Python’ has just finished its run at the An Beal Bocht Cafe. For more information about ‘Poor Mouth Theatre’ please visit: poormouththeatre.blogspot.com. For more information about Origin Theatre please visit: origintheatre.org
This review was written by Thomas Burns Scully, a New York based writer, actor and musician. His work has been lauded in Time Out NY and the New York Times, and his writing has been performed on three continents. He is generally considered to be the thrifty person’s Renaissance man.
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