Writer: James Ward
Director: Jenny Bassett
Reviewer: Tricia O’Beirne
Hot Potato Productions presents Just Guff, a political comedy, downstairs in the Cellar Bar as part of the Galway Fringe Festival 2017.
The venue is intimate and suits the sitting-room interior setting. The set is simply furnished but certain items inform the audience as to the theme of the play: photos of Eamonn de Valera, Jack Lynch and Charlie Haughey and books on Irish politics. James Ward, in an author’s note on the programme, comments that the Fianna Fáil party is not named in the play but it is clear that, along with a taste for Paddy Irish whiskey, our protagonist is a supporter. From the choice of music played before the play begins, including Armoured Cars and Tanks and Guns and Hail Glorious Saint Patrick, we can deduct that this is the house of an ardent Irish nationalist.
Sean T. is the central character and obviously a mouthpiece for the author (who confesses in his note to being obsessed with the issues the play raises). A retired postmaster with health concerns, Sean T. is played assuredly and convincingly by Michael Irwin. The play is essentially a monologue with occasional interruptions by Mrs. Carew, the new postmistress who also seems to be looking after Sean T., a brief visit from a female councillor and a final visit from Sean T.’s errant son’s girlfriend. The script allows our protagonist voice the anger and hurt experienced by members of grassroots Fianna Fáil after a series of policy changes and, in Sean T.’s estimation, betrayals which abandoned northern nationalists and many supporters down south.
There are moments of comedy throughout the performance but overall the play is more of a heartfelt tirade and it feels there is little distance between our protagonist’s views and the author’s. When Sean T. expresses disbelief at the existence of female councillors and TDs it seems initially a character quirk but the arrival of the female councillor confirms his bias – she is the daughter of a councillor, has no political ambition and asserts that she is only in her position because of gender quotas. The denouement also seems to belong in another era where social mores were a lot more conservative. Overall Sean T. is a well-developed believable character but the script needs to allow the other characters to engage with or challenge his dominance.
Reviewed on 22 July 2017 | Image: Contributed