Believe what you see? Anyone driving along Farnham Road on Friday night may be forgiven for questioning their own eyes. Half a dozen headstones had popped up on the grassy banks of St Felim’s NS like crooked teeth and a freshly dug grave appeared under floodlights.
Meanwhile, two undesirables wearing “face tights” lugged a cadaver in a rolled up carpet across the street. For those of us standing foundered in the Townhall carpark at least we knew it was all just a fragment of playwright Philip Doherty and musical director Robbie Perry’s incredible reimagining of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
The undesirables were Dr Frankenstein – played by Patrick O’Donnell - a Trinity medical student dropout and his punkish girlfriend Elizabeth (the talented Annie June Callaghan) who, armed with a circular saw, a freshly harvested brain, a jolt of electricity and a charge of slapstick, regenerated the monster, AKA Dublin actor Steve Blount.
A Cavan Town drug dealing gouger – the brilliant Charlie McGuinness - was the first victim but, before he met his fate, the monster swallowed a whole heap of tabs. From there the audience entered the Townhall where we were submersed in the monster’s drug-twisted consciousness. Now it was the audience’s turn to question what they saw. It was quite the trip: Brides of Frankensteins, monsters, burlesque dancers, American sitcoms, complete with canned laughter, and a hick bar in the deepest depths of the Deep South.
Along with brilliant acting performances – a crucial element of the show was the magnificent live music by drummer Tom Flynn, Conor Harrington on guitar, a sitar playing Dara O’Brien dressed as a Hindu god, Andrew Lynch on keyboard, Perry on autoharp and chanteuse Niamh McCormack. Playing a burlesque singer, Carina Charles performed a raucous rendition of The Doors’ Alamba Song, which memorably involved her harmonising with Nicole Beck, who was suggestively nestled between her thighs.
This drug altered section saw Dr Frankenstein reinvented into a southern style evangelical preacher who was creating more monsters of his own with the electrical charge of his emotive sermonising – complete with the ‘Fake News’. O’Donnell was truly exceptional in this role.
Then it was the turn of Tommy Sharkey to try to steal the show, which he made a fabulous attempt at doing as Frankenstein’s monster was coerced into a TV studio as he was subjected to the court of public opinion on the Jeremy Kyle Show (yes this all really happened). Sharkey was surreal as Kyle. He pontificated and prodded his speechless guest, and ultimately poisoned the audience turned against the monster.
Bamboozled by drugs, drink and demagogues, the monster sought the sanctuary of a garden, where he stumbled across a young girl on a swing... you know the rest.
The monster was the real star of the show. Seemingly defying the laws of physics, he staggered through the full length play, merely grunting and whining, but through his facial and physical acting, you were left with the thought that he’d eloquently spoken throughout.
Whilst the play was brimming with gags and bawdiness, Blount played the monster so tenderly that you couldn’t feel anything but sympathy for him – even when he’s inadvertently snapping a kid’s neck.
Despite our sympathies, the audience readily joined a torch wielding lynch mob and searched the old abbey and cemetery on Abbey Street for the monster. Again halted motorists were left to wonder at what was unfolding as the roads were closed off by gardaí and Cockney prostitutes from bygone centuries were touting for customers.
The play’s climax, mercifully with a happy ending left the audience, like the monster, speechless at what had unfolded. Doherty and Perry’s imagination is matched only by the creative powers of the Townhall team to make it a reality.