Writer: Brian McAvera
Director: Joe Devlin
Reviewer: Ciara L. Murphy
Based on the life and times of ground breaking, and occasionally controversial, Irish comedian Dave Allen, Dave at Large is a cuttingly funny piece of theatre. Famously remembered for being banned from RTÉ for his ‘close to the bone’ jokes about the Catholic Church, Dave Allen’s life is dramatised for the Irish stage in this punchy two act comedy.
Written by Brian McAvera and performed by Michael Bates, Tara Breathnach, and Bryan Murray. These three actors represent varying parts Allen’s consciousness, and are speaking to us from ‘the afterlife’. It is clear that great care has been taken to emulate Allen’s controversial style of comedy, with much of McAvera’s script focusing on contemporary criticisms of the Catholic Church, in Allen’s straight talking style.
The set, simply realised by Conleth White and Joe Devlin, is dominated by a large screen, which changes colour according to the action onstage. The ensemble provide solid performances, and the comic moments are well timed and well-coordinated. There are moments when the energy lapses, and the darkness of the jokes turns the experience sombre. This feels a little out of place at times, the balance of black humour tilted too far. Perhaps it is the context that the play is being performed in, with the Catholic Church under fire from public opinion once more in the wake of the ‘Tuam Babies’ scandal, some of the resonances of this play hit very close to home.
However this production is at its best when the laughter is flowing, and there is no faulting the comedy of the piece. Unafraid of being controversial, Dave at Large is a fitting homage to one of Ireland’s best known comedians. It’s guaranteed to provide an entertaining and nostalgic evening.
Reviewed in Town Hall Theatre on 21 March 2017 and on tour across Ireland until April 8th | Image: contributed.