Hero – Theatre Upstairs – Review by P McGovern
Hero by Ken Rogan – Theatre Upstairs, Eden Quay
A strikingly imaginative set – a backdrop constructed from wineglasses suspended from fishing line or similar and tiny fairy lights – marks the attention to detail in Amilia Stewart’s direction of Ken Rogan’s ‘Hero’, a one-hour, one-act play receiving its premiere at Theatre Upstairs for Lakedaemon theatre company. The actor is silhouetted, stock still against this backdrop, beer bottle in hand in some kind of lounge bar as we listen to That Old Black Magic Called Love. Love certainly has Smithy, our maybe-hero, in its spell as round and round he goes… As the action begins we have The Way You Look Tonight – played right through and too loudly so that the actor has to contend with the words of the song, an unnecessary distraction. It’s a song best avoided in plays since its inspired use in Brian Friel’s Faith Healer. This is the only jarring note in an otherwise excellent production, and it is a very minor quibble.
As Smithy, Daithi Mac Suibhne launches into his extroverted, full-on anecdotes and observations on his twin obsessions – women and football, and the need to score in both arenas. He is animated, engaging and entertaining but there is a lot more to come than energy and entertainment. Mac Suibhne inhabits Smithy to his core, puffed up with adrenalin and rampant with testosterone as he tries to convince his mates, his team mates, his girlfriends, the audience but above all himself that he is, well … the man. Along the way, there are moments of despondency, disappointment and desperation. There is hope and longing and occasional elation. And success? Well maybe. You’ll have to wait to the end to find out. The very end, that is, as Rogan’s story takes several interesting twists and turns before the end.
Smithy finds ready outlets for his anger and frustration in well-aimed darts at girls “studying law” and many other targets. The writing is sharp, incisive, witty and original, with a finely tuned ear for young-man talk, macho talk, street talk, club talk. The writer is well served by a first-class performance, steering us through a tangled maze of emotions, never less than totally convincing. Here is an actor who knows how to hold his cards and how to fold them. If only the character knew when to leave the table and walk away from law students who hang their heads sideways … But then we’d have a different play. A much less interesting one.
This show could do the rounds of clubs and theatres for years to come. Not just in sports clubs full of young men high on hormones: there are few theatregoers, regardless of age or gender, that will not recognise elements of their own twenty-something selves in Mac Suibhne’s performance. It is well worth catching as it continues its run at Theatre Upstairs until January 28.
Daithí Mac Suibhne / CAST
Ken Rogan / WRITER
Amilia Stewart / DIRECTOR
Naomi Faughan / SET DESIGN
Eoin Byrne / LIGHTING DESIGN
Ste Murray / PHOTOGRAPHY + MARKETING DESIGN