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Saturday 10 December 2016

Review: The Shadow of a Gunman

Mark O'Halloran in The Shadow of a Gunman
Mark O'Halloran in The Shadow of a Gunman

Hunched over a writing desk, his identity mistaken for that of an IRA assassin, poet, Donal Davoren wonders what danger there might be "in being the shadow of a gunman".

Now, we usually don't like when it when plays go out of their way to explain the title. But then, The Shadow of a Gunman is almost 100 years old, and Mark O'Halloran's delightful disappearance acts are always welcome.

The first part in Sean O'Casey's 'Dublin Trilogy', The Shadow… has also undergone The Official Wayne Jordan Makeover Experience. Yes, this might be the most spacious tenement building we've ever laid eyes upon.

A sleepy Davoren (O'Halloran) complains about the noise while the War of Independence rages on outside. Methinks the tenant doth protest too much. That is, until he and his roommate, Seamus, discover that one of the other lads has left behind a bag of bombs - just in time for the weekly raid.

Donal has everyone transfixed. Neighbour Minnie Powell is besotted with him. The flamboyant wordsmith is only too happy to play the danger role when it suits him, but the truth comes to light whenever the real baddies crash through the door (Donal hides behind it).

A perplexing tale of a poet with the most entertaining writer's block in history, what we have here is a production that walks an awkward line between wacky situation comedy and sincere war drama. With the aforementioned Jordan in the director's chair, it's hardly surprising that some of the actors should break into over-the-top song-and-dance sequences (a super Lloyd Cooney shows everyone up as Tommy Owens).Quite often, however, the performances are way more interesting than the story.

A jumbled upgrade in which O'Halloran delivers another robust comical turn, The Shadow... overstretches itself but is, nonetheless, a decent theatrical tale with a few extraordinary ingredients thrown in. Prime example? How about Donal slowly reaching for that bag of bombs? Good God, our hearts. HHHII

Running until August 1

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