Writer: Anna Shiels-McNamee
Director: Gemma Aked-Priestly
Reviewer: Ciarán Leinster
My Dad’s Blind, written by Anna Shiels-McNamee, who also plays the nameless female character, is an outstanding piece of work that balances humour and sorrow, pity and anger, and cynicism and sentimentality. Shiels-McNamee and David O’Meara, the only other actor, fill the Project’s upstairs space with ease, not an easy task, in which they are aided by strategic lighting (Sarah Jane Shiels) on various objects across the stage, a constant sense of urgency and movement, and their own evident chemistry.
Beginning with the vacuous daughter attempting to interview her blind father for a YouTube video, the play seems set to portray the father as stoic, humble man getting on with his disability and its accompanying loneliness, while his daughter yearns for more, caused by the typical millennial’s innate knowledge that how something is, need not be how it appears. But it becomes far more than this, and we see moments of tender connection between the two, balanced by frustration that erupts into terrifying anger. In the most memorable scene, he teaches her how to walk in heels, after which they perform a 1950s-style dance together to music that regularly plays from the radio in the corner. The fact that the pair consistently walk this line not only keeps the audience engaged and tense, but also means the piece feels more authentic than anything this reviewer has seen at the Fringe in years.
There is an almost surreal element introduced in the second half, when the father inflates a ludicrously proportioned sex doll, Olive, as his girlfriend. He carries out conversations with her, introduces her to his daughter, and demands that she make the pair of them soup. This provokes fierce anger in the daughter and also causes the drama to slightly lose focus. There is an abrupt ending, but also the feeling that there is no ending – the pair will continue to rely on each other, for better or worse.
Runs until 22 September 2018 | Image: Contributed