Welcome to the Kerryman

Sat 6th – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Alexandra Sayers

at 12:12 on 28th Aug 2011

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‘Welcome to The Kerryman’ charts twenty-two year old Lauren O’Rourke’s new life away from her family-run Irish pub in Birmingham...and then her return. The stage is set as a bar, with O’Rourke commanding the position of bar-maid/orator with aplomb. She begins her set with a meticulously detailed evocation of the pub by switching impressions from punter to punter with successful dexterity. Not only can O’Rourke switch between accents quickly, she also creates a decidedly three-dimensional picture of all her characters: they, too, have back-stories, rather than simply being props. We meet the locals - or ‘Plastic Paddys’ - in all their tediousness (‘My grandma’s better looking than you. And she’s dead’) and so we as the audience live vicariously through O’Rourke, feeling her ennui and desperation to leave. At times, this part of the show can seem to drag as, naturally, we await her departure from The Kerryman. When she gets a letter of acceptance from a drama school, O’Rourke physically bursts out from behind the bar, fizzing energetically with excitement, and thus begins the second, and more successful, stage of her set. Here, there enters into the piece more than just renditions of hilarious experiences: O’Rourke also captures with frankness and sincerity the difficulty of falling in love with the wrong person. Although tinged throughout with humour (my favourite story was a scratch-card holiday for the French Riviera that turns out to be a ‘nationwide tour of service stations’), O’Rourke’s account of her relationship with Jack is recounted with an honesty that can’t help but to include the audience, in a personal experience which gets re-calibrated into an audience-wide understanding of relationship successes and failures.

O’Rourke is a great performer: super energetic in her different roles and impersonations, and often moving around the space at a rate of knots. This enthusiasm is certainly felt by the audience who, after a luke-warm start, really get into her comic style. What seems to make O’Rourke’s set so likable is her genuine performance: the audience really get the impression that all her comedy has come from first-hand experience; all her characters are real; and that she is exactly how she presents herself. This creates a unique, highly enjoyable window into another life that rings true rather than being at all contrived. If the Kerryman locals could only see O’Rourke now.

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