In Dog Years I’m Dead – Review By Joseph Kearney
Two 29ish nearly 30 somethings meet against their will at a birthday party of a mutual friend that is about to arrive at the milestone that is the big 3 0. Caroline is not only 30, she is a thirty year old that has essentially made it. Married, mum of twins and still in touch with all her mates. She is the ideal and somewhat reviled success story all our parents wish we were.
The two storytellers of this piece are initially introduced to us as Billie and Biddy. Biddy (Marie Ruane) is 29 but soon to be that astronomical age sometimes known as Saturn’s return. On the threshold of the 4th decade, she is a bit panicked but in a calm ‘I’m in control on the surface’ kind of way. She has fashioned a list of 30 goals to achieve before she makes it to middle age. Forced into an awkward conversation about lollipops and the history of the Wham bar she is trying to give Billie a chance as although he is nervous, geeky and too keen, he is a nice guy and deserves that at least. Her pity doesn’t extend terribly far but she does hear him out.
Billie (Robert Bannon) is, like many men of 30ish; lost, not quite there yet, careerless in the sense of not using his college qualifications to earn income. He is a 30 year old waiter, working in restaurants and hotels across Dublin. He is cheeky and cute but hopeless at chatting to women.
In ‘In Dog Years I’m Dead’ the writing takes a common enough idea and with quite a lot of documentarian research, interviewing grannies and youngsters, it takes the normal ‘Romeo and Juliet’ style scene and catapults it to new possibilities previously unexpected. This is Adam meets Eve but Eve hates apples and definitely doesn’t want to settle for a man with a garden and a live in all seeing, all knowing God complex Granddad. Its Aladdin and Jasmine only Aladdin’s flying carpet is a dream to move out of his parent’s gaff and get a flat in Drumcondra. This play is real, normal and delightfully honest. “Do you ever feel like you are faking it as an adult?” “Yeah, like all the time.”
It is the universality of storytelling that makes fairytales and legends touch us. This piece has all the essential ingredients of folklore in the present day. We have a female, (insert princess, street urchin, swan as appropriate) looking for satisfaction but she might be able to do that on her own; revolutionary. And a lad who, being the embodiment of the Male, (Insert Prince, hero, warrior as appropriate) who presumably can do everything on his own yet we meet him pining for another to complete him. We have all the inner worries, secrets and madness of living expressed on stage and we have the wisdom of either having lived it or spent a lot of time worrying about the day when 30 will arrive.
The writing is so honest, it sweeps three decades looking back to move deftly forward. It offers humour to heal pain, solutions to impossible problems which is usually just plain acceptance and the realisation that getting older is not something to fear, it’s something to celebrate. Grab it firmly with both hands. Open your eyes and start living here and now. The external pressures of needing to make it, needing to have babies, a mortgage, see the world, save Africa, be the big shot in the office, holiday in Dubai, know what Snapchat is for or decide whether being a hipster is for you or your baby sibling is not really the point, its observing and fitting in. Living is being yourself and owning it. It’s reaching 31 and thinking my car is 16 years old, I don’t have a plan and never really have, but I make a nice curry and I like reading and that’s pretty good for me.