Pat Kinevane’s new one man play for Fishamble is aptly named King as the actor is clearly at the top of his game. He plays with us, the audience, confides, divulges, shocks and amuses and draws us into his world. It is, characteristically, not a comfortable one involving the eponymous king, actually our narrator Luther, named for the great American preacher, Dr King. Luther’s dream is to escape his fate, psychological damage leading to a lonely life on medication with brief outings as an Elvis impersonator and companion to his hospitalised father. It’s tenderly done with a sideways dance step into a truly sexy and impressive tango, Luther’s passion inherited from the most vivid of this guy’s imagined onstage companions, his late grandmother Bee Baw. The beautifullest and no doubt most unforgettable of bitches in Munster.
This is a very Irish narrative, with diversions into the fate of the whole country under British oppression that seem to anticipate poor Luther’s fate in a way. He also channels a 17th century narrator so we get past torture and indignity. This is harrowing, as is a good half of Kinevane’s story which fills a mostly empty stage, made mysterious by a quantity of dry ice (which made us cough a bit), the tango costume, a phone on a table and piece of furniture moving from impersonating an ironing board where young Luther learnt the craft from Biba to his dear father;s deathbed. He admits his father thinks the great mother in law with iron and anti-racist homilies, is still alive at 106 and there’s a delightful digression into the notion of her going for a dirty weekend to Lanzarote with a 92 year old. Kinevane did the whispering father scenes brilliantly well, with tenderness.
But our man is troubled, and was psychologically damaged by his mother’s abused past whose tentacles reach into his rich, mad, uncomfortable yet real present. There is hope, always a dangerous emotion, in Luther’s life now as he’s going to sing at Indira’s wedding, the nuptials of his prescription drug provider and friend. We so want him to succeed, to escape his home prison. Yet the phone call, when it comes, is not from the taxi firm transporting him to the reception and possible liberation. Of course not, it’s the news of his father’s death and the downward spiral via an exotic dance, the milonga of the sad gouchos. Clippety clop goes the sound effect. This was a tour de force but sad in the manner of Irish literature.
King is on tour in Ireland.