Joe Prop – Smock Alley – Review

Joeprop_944x300Joe Prop – Review by Frances Winston

Smock Alley Theatre, Exchange Street Lower, Temple Bar, Dublin 8 – Runs 27th October – 1st November – Tickets €15/12/10

Having started as a short play as part of the Barnardos UnderMyBed2014 fundraising event Joe Prop gets the full theatrical treatment but doesn’t forget it’s origins. 10% of all the ticket sales are being donated to Barnardos and they very generously gave all their opening night proceeds to the charity.

Fair City star Maclean Burke helms this one man one teddy bear show (Mr Ted has a bright future ahead of him in theatre) which tells the story of 12-year-old Joe Kavanagh who is mercilessly bullied in school having put on weight following an illness. He finds solace on the rugby pitch and dreams of someday being a prop for Ireland and Captain of a winning Irish Rugby world Cup Team. Alone in his room he lives out his dreams with Mr Ted as he imagines the epic matches that will see him take his place in Irish rugby history.

Having originally been 27 minutes long I was unsure how this would translate into a full length production but all involved have done a wonderful job of developing the story. Playwright Gemma Doorly has really managed to get inside the head of a 12-year-old and everyone will recognise parts of their childhood in the tale (who hasn’t lied to their parents that they were going to sleep when they were in fact running around their bedroom living out their fantasy world with their toys). Director Karl Shiels has done a wonderful job teasing a frenetic yet poignant performance from Burke who does an amazing job as the daydreaming pre-teen switching between emotions, stories and scenarios with aplomb. His energy is infectious and he completely brings Joe’s story to life. You truly feel for the boy as he deals with things most adults would struggle with while focusing on his dream.

Many well known rugby pundits lend their voices to Joe’s fantasies which really helps to draw you into the world however a working knowledge of rugby is not necessary to enjoy this. At its heart it is the story of a youngster with a dream and everyone has been there at one time or another so therefore can relate to him.

This is a magical production that encapsulates the wonder of the childhood imagination perfectly. Suitable for ages 12+ this would be a great introduction to theatre for kids who have never been before but adults will love it as well. Extremely funny but also incredibly moving this never gets dull and feels far shorter than its approximate 90 minute running time – always a good sign as it means it never gets dull. The fact that it is helping a worthy cause only adds to the magic. Possibly one of the sweetest theatrical experiences you will ever have if this doesn’t touch you on some level there’s something wrong with you.

Joe Prop – Smock Alley Theatre – Runs 27th October – 1st November – Tickets €15/12/10

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