Review: Rum and Vodka

Natasha D'Souza 27 November 2012

Rum and Vodka

Corpus Playroom, 9.30pm, Mon 26 Nov

“I feel like a drink…maybe some chips”, I thought after the play. I did actually end up crossing over to Market Square after the show, unable to restrain the urge. Probably not the result the play was advocating but maybe one that was to be anticipated. The driving temptation was alcohol, sometimes coy, sometimes a ‘fucking slap in the face’; soon, the regular ‘pint and a short’ and the extra kick of a ‘rum and vodka’ drove the protagonist, Michael, through to his stark end: loss, bitter humour and despair.

The monologue was very well executed by Jacob Shephard, recalled for another show after its success this past May. And I can see why. Throughout the performance, which I had felt lasted a good two hours – it was in fact only an hour – Shephard kept the audience glued with his honest Irish accent right up until the final, sudden, darkening of the playroom. You know how good a monologue is going to be within the first few minutes; I knew with this one: spectacularly acted with everyone in sympathy with the character’s mood swings, friends, acquaintances, habits and annoyances.

The audience became complicit in Michael’s every move as they were brought into the play as fellow actors, interrogated and addressed by the lost alcoholic in his direct confession. I definitely see the power in creating such a world; Shephard remembered all the names in the audience (rather small given the success of the play) and addressed them in turn, as and when the moment suited. (Only once with relation to someone ‘unfortunately’ wearing glasses did it seem staged.) The only problem with this was that the narrative often went from serious confession to slapstick horror in a split-second when an awkward member of the audience misplayed their part and trivialised the moment. What I then came to realise was that this could be part of the artifice: Shephard, as smooth as a pint of Guinness, navigated the audience away from his mistakes, causing a roar of laughter at his confrontation with smarmy, arty ‘shits’ down at the pub, only to draw them into his sudden, serious despair. Sure, maybe the names were overdone and detracted from the events at hand – I sometimes would have preferred to have viewed from a distance – but this was it, the strange and awkward feeling of being in the same situation as one ‘pissed off their head’ that makes you laugh and cry despite yourself.

‘Follow our hero on a lost weekend’, we were invited. I’m not sure whether this was to have been told from a point of view in the future, looking back on his past with regret and therefore after a resolution to give up the drink or whether we were living through his continued hell, pint and short by rum and vodka. It seemed bizarre that we were invited to share in a drink before the play and that the actor himself then didn’t join in with us when his part was called up. The point seemed rather lost, perhaps a fault in the script rather than the acting. Or maybe we were meant to believe in his decision to give up and his realisation as to what life was worth living for.

 

Natasha D’Souza