Writer and Director: Mark O’ Rowe
Reviewer: Ciara Murphy
Directing your own work is always risky business and when Mark O’ Rowe made the daring decision to direct Howie the Rookie for the Project Arts Centre stage, it truly was a risk worth taking.
This is a play with a swift pace, colourful characters and even more colourful language. Spanning two bleak nights and encompassing a myriad of monstrous characters, The Howie Lee and The Rookie Lee, namesakes and more alike than they think embark on a perilous urban adventure where their lives become intertwined and the omen of death comes in the from of a green Hiace van.
Bracing and cathartic, Vaughan-Lawlor’s performance leaves the audience spellbound. The performance is dark with continuous bursts of humour and lashings of the grotesque. The coarseness of the language packs an almost physical punch and displays a raw honesty that carries the production to a climactic success.
The tense contrast between the narrative and the sparse set was a risky move but it is managed beautifully. The lighting design by Sinéad McKenna acts as a second character and enhances the invigorating and energetic performance of the Howie and the Rookie Lee.
Despite the absence of grandiose stage and sound design the audience’s belief in the story and belief in the characters never drops for a second. Vaughan-Lawlor’s lone voice rings loud and clear and captures the audience’s imagination. He is a powerhouse dominating the stage with his vivid and electrifying movements. Paul Wills’ set is intimate, sparse and perfectly paired with the equally bare sound spectrum (Philip Stewart). It highlights the impenetrable story of O’Rowe’s characters who are convincingly personified through the voice of two men, and flawlessly embodied by one.
This is Irish theatre at its finest and really is an un-missable performance. O’ Rowe’s text transcends the boundaries of time and place and is a dark, humorous, and truly emotional experience. You will be hanging on every word.