Howie the Rookie – Viking Theatre – Review
by Frank L.
Written by Mark O’Rowe
Production by Glass Mask Theatre
Dates: Jan 20 – Feb 8, 2020
Twenty years ago, when Howie the Rookie premiered, Stephen Jones and Rex Ryan were but teenagers. Here they perform the roles of Howie Lee and the Rookie Lee respectively.
On a stage without any props, as the crowd gathers Stephen Jones stands with his back to the audience. As the lights go down he describes seeing smoke in a nearby waste piece of ground. It is a mattress on fire which needs to be destroyed because it is infested with scabies. That is the lead into the everyday life of Howie Lee and his various friends and associates who include Olly (the owner of the mattress), Peaches, his large sister Avalanche, Flan Dingle and his HiAce van with the Ginger Boy riding on the roof and a motley collection of other characters. O’Rowe’s fast-moving, roller coasting text stands the test of time even if a camcorder and Harry Moore signify an earlier era. Jones with his relaxed delivery and innate empathy for Howie Lee and the various individuals whom he is describing brings the audience straight into the maelstrom of the story and keeps them gripped.
After the interval, Rex Ryan continues the story as the Rookie Lee. He is under financial pressure as he caused the death of two fighting Chinese fish. He needs money to replace them. The collection of characters whom Howie Lee has already described continue to populate the story as told by the Rookie Lee. Ryan’s performance complements that of Jones. Physically he is of a slighter build with more sharply drawn features. These differences and the different pitch of their voices add diversity to the hilarious but grim stories they recount. It is a world with which most of the audience would not be overly familiar with but there is obvious enjoyment in their becoming acquainted with it.
This production shows that the play remains engaging despite its age, as it explores the underbelly of an urban/suburban life.
Written by Mark O’Rowe.
Directed by Neil Flynn.
Performed by Stephen Jones & Rex Ryan