Vagabonds – My Phil Lynott Odyssey – at Civic Theatre Tallaght – Review by Paddy McG
5 – 7 January 2017 @ 8.15pm
This show, acted by Robert Mountford (who is also co-writer with Chris Larner, who directs) and presented by Leviathan’s Goat and Tara Arts, is a revelation. It is not just for aficionados of Irish 1970’s rock music although they will love it. It is certainly not for those looking for a lazy slice of ‘Dublin in the rare old times’ nostalgia or Philo hagiography. But anyone who enjoys a good evening’s theatre will come away grateful for a thrilling performance of a witty, original and totally satisfying piece. For the full duration of the sixty-minute show, the rapt silence was interrupted only by chuckles of recognition and bursts of laughter.
It opens with Cuchulainn leaping onto the stage, complete with pantomime red beard and Christian Brothers 1960’s play cloak, declaiming as Gaeilge. But from there we are taken through a dazzling array of characters and situations, inviting us to look at heroes from family members to international entertainment stars – and yes Phil Lynott himself.
Mountford is as fine an actor as you are likely to see on a Dublin stage this year. He is astonishingly versatile both physically and vocally, changing from child to adolescent to young man, exasperated parent or any one of a dozen other characters – with accents to match. It comes as a surprise to learn that the actor is English as his Irish accents – not just Dublin but West Cork and West of Ireland – are incredibly accurate. Exchanges between an adoring younger boy and his older ultra-cool brother or between various rotating members of Thin Lizzy are done with great economy and humour. Lynott himself comments from his Harry St. pedestal, turning his laconic wit on “gobshites” from around the country who come out of the bar to commune with their hero, and confide their thoughts on the greatness of his music. They are all recognisable types, acutely observed and brilliantly delivered by Mountford.
The writing is sharp and witty, poking fun at theatre itself, with asides about possible audience insistence on “narrative shape” and “dramaturgical structure”. However, while the ‘plot’ flits from character to character, country to country and idea to idea, it is totally coherent and deeply satisfying. The show is the perfect antidote to the flabby fare dished up on TV and on many stages over the festive period. It rocks. It continues tonight and tomorrow, January 6th and 7th at the Civic. Don’t miss it.