Drunken Lullabies, online theatre review, February 12, 2021, Accidental Theatre, Belfast
By Conor O’Neill
It’s all quite exciting really: a terrible winter’s night sitting alone with a few Guinness and watching the clock tick down and coupled with crowd noises as I look at Accidental Theatre’s page and wait on the play to begin. Yes, life during this shitstorm of a pandemic has been reduced to this. But when the fella in black finally hits the stage after a few curtain calls, the next hour and 20 or so minutes is well worth the wait.
Belfast born Cathal Ferris’s solo play Drunken Lullabies has finally made it to the town of his birth. Produced by Sixpenny Productions the play received four stars at Edinburgh’s Fringe in 2019 and seems to have travelled everywhere since, barring here.
The premise is simple and from the mouth of the actor and playwright himself, promises to be a ‘cautionary tale and a rollercoaster of a ride’. As for the set, well, it minimalist to say the least. Nothing more than a chair centre stage, a table with a few cans of Guinness to his right and a black box to his left. There’s little more needed barring a tight script and the many scenes and emotions spilt forth as we find out about a somewhat lost young man who through instances of sheer chance, a lot of hard work and talent finds his way in life.
What’s noticeable from the off is the physicality Ferris uses to illustrate his tale, whether it be a kick to the face, the dance audition or stumbling blindly through London half cut, both in the literal and figurative sense of the phrase. Put simply, if you dare to look away from the screen you feel you will be missing something of worth.
Just like the Titanic and the New Testament, we all know the ending before we begin, apart from this having a happier ending: it is, after all a story of redemption. With romps in Scottish bar, strip clubs, a run-in with the police, an X-Factor audition, a fateful meeting with an old English teacher and a messy fortnight in Amsterdam bring the frolics of the tale to the fore.
By far the most endearing scenes of Cathal’s story is his meeting and relationship with Maloney, a drama coach from the east of Belfast. Ferris plays at least 10 characters, each one of them believable, but none more so than Maloney. Apart from playing himself, which of course should be easy, Maloney is the beating heart of this play. Ferris’s adoration for the man is palpable.
Of the scenes to watch out for ‘the tip of the tongue, teeth and the lips’ Peter Piper tongue twister is set forever set in my mind, as is his rendition of Romeo and Juliet’s act five scene three. But perhaps the most memorable of all is his lamentable singing of What’s Left of the Flag. That scene alone is worthy of the ticket price.
Apart from shits and giggles, what did I take from the performance? I think, like Ferris himself, the words of his mentor: “Nothing is impossible when you fight the fear and find the fun.”
Unfortunately tonight’s performance was a one off live gig, but if you do get the chance to see this show, get in line sharpish. You’ll not regret it.