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DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL: What Good is Looking Well When You’re Rotten on the Inside – The New Theatre, Dublin

Writers: Emma O’Grady and Paddy O’Grady

Reviewer: Ciarán Leinster

Characteristic of the Fringe Festival, this is a difficult piece to pin down. It is part reminiscence about the performer’s grandfather, Paddy; part performance of some of his lost works; and part playing of his own voice, recorded in his latter months, detailing certain moments in his life. However, the most important thing to grasp is Emma O’Grady’s charisma, her powerful narrative voice, and the affection she feels towards her subject.

O’Grady performs the shows as her grandfather, dressed in a tweed suit with slicked back hair. He had been a soldier in the British army, a civil servant, and, most notably, the manager of Cork Airport. She describes his life, from the poverty of rural Galway to the relative affluence of his later years, and while her fondness is always clear, she refuses to stray into language that is overly romanticising. She describes numerous incidents when her grandfather acts less than heroic, all the while displaying her affection for the man as she knew him. Any unappealing occurrences that are described are placed firmly within the context of their time.

The set is tatty and of its time; beige furniture, often augmented with flowers from the stage manager and sole fellow actor, and rickety furniture. However, the most impressionable aspect is the audio recordings that Paddy made in his final months. Some of these are replayed, relatively banal stories, but his narrative voice, and the evocation of a previous time, are exceptionally powerful. Paddy’s voice is simple, humane, and fair, and the audience develops a huge affection for the man in this brief time we spend with him. This is no hagiography, as it is not intended to be, but it is extremely charming, well-executed, and leaves one feeling there is slightly more good in the world than beforehand.

Runs until 16 September 2017 | Image: Martin Maguire

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