Young Skins – The Clancy Kid & Bait – The New Theatre – Review by P McGovern
Young Skins – The Clancy Kid & Bait by Colin Barrett
Colin Barrett’s book of short stories, Young Skins, which was rightly hailed as a serious literary achievement, is the basis for this production, more specifically two of the stories, The Clancy Kid and Bait. The stories have been minimally adapted for stage, presumably by the author himself as no adaptor is credited. Rather than people the stage with a full cast of the characters from the original stories, this staging pares the presentation down to two actors, Stephen O’Leary (Jimmy) and Killian Coyle (Tug Cunnife and Teddy).
In addition to playing the character of Jimmy, O’Leary acts as narrator of the Clancy Kid. His strong, charismatic stage presence works beautifully for the ‘messer’ and shaper that is Jimmy, joking, acting the maggot, poking at Tug, occasionally stopping just short of provoking a serious confrontation. O’Leary slips between his two roles effortlessly and is equally effective in both. The opening section works brilliantly, with the two ‘laaads’ observing and commenting on the other young men and women in The Flamingo night club, somewhere is small town Ireland, probably Barrett’s native Mayo. As O’Leary narrates, Coyle mimes and mimics the action being described, bringing scenes almost into three-dimensional life. There is much humour, but there is also a sense of young people living unfulfilled lives in a bleak social landscape. Despite the determination of one or two audience members to laugh at every line on opening night, Ciara Smyth’s assured direction gives the sad undertow just enough space to break the surface.
Coyle is a fine actor, outstanding as Danny in the recent memorable production of The Spinning Heart. Although there are parallels between that piece (an adaptation of Donal Ryan’s novel) and this production, the differences are telling. Although some actors played a number of parts in The Spinning Heart, there were enough players to differentiate the characters and keep the narrative clear. In Bait, Coyle brings an array of characters – male and female, drunk and sober, conniving and naïve, innocent and malicious – brilliantly to life. However, the facility with which he switches from one character or location to another as the story reaches its climax somehow obstructs the main thread of the narrative. It becomes hard to keep track of the ‘who/where/what ‘ but this is a not a problem of Coyle’s making; it is inherent in the demands of the multiplicity of roles and the headlong rush to the ending.
The one-hour show continues at New Theatre until June 3rd, at 7. 30 nightly.