Minimal Human Contact – Dublin Fringe Festival – Review
by Fran Winston
Performances: 22 & 23 September – 18:30, €16/€14
Other Performances: 21 September, 20:45, 24 September, 13:00 – €16/€14
Venue: Smock Alley Theatre – 1662
There have been many plays about addiction usually dealing with alcohol or drugs. After all, when most people think of addiction that is where their mind wanders to. However, gambling addiction isn’t something that is usually tackled on the stage. Indeed, when gambling features in theatre or film, it is generally depicted as a glamourous world of high-end casinos or fabulous days at the race track.
But Gambling addiction is a very real problem that afflicts thousands of people. While it may not be as visible an addiction as substance abuse it destroys lives. In this production writer, Naoise Ó Cairealláin (better known as the award-winning rapper Moglai Bap from KNEECAP), attempts to give an insight into the mind of the compulsive gambler. The person who can’t stop chasing that big win that will change their life even when this desire is destroying them.
Oisin is that person. With £300 in his pocket, he just needs his numbers to come up and everything will be fine. He really needs his numbers to come up because he’s “borrowed” the £300 from his mother and needs to put it back before she notices, but tonight is his night. He’s sure of it as he takes his place in the casino, placing ludicrous bets and getting increasingly incensed as other people win. Even the unlimited tea and biscuits aren’t helping take the edge off.
Seán T Ó Meallaigh plays Oisin with enough nervous energy to run a small town. You literally feel every twitch and itch as his addiction gets under his skin. He manages to evoke sympathy for the character even though he has stolen from his mother and has some rather questionable traits.
The staging is simple but stylish, with the backing implying a dingy casino entrance. Instead of windows, there are screens depicting the slot machines. The instantly recognisable sounds of those slots play under the dialogue. While this could probably be performed on a bare stage it really does add to the atmosphere.
Performed entirely As Gaelige there is a musicality to the words – no doubt informed by Ó Cairealláin’s background. Don’t panic if you struggle with the cúpla focal as headsets with an English translation are available. At the show I attended, about 50% of the audience availed of these. You might lose something in the translation but nothing that will ruin your experience.
This feels far shorter than its 45 minutes as it barrels along at a breakneck pace. It is engaging and enlightening and surprisingly cathartic. It is the perfect marriage of writer and actor. A wonderful piece that will hopefully have a life beyond this festival.