EFR - Reviews of Al Donegan: The 5 Worst Things I Ever Did

Al Donegan: The 5 Worst Things I Ever Did

Thu 31st July – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

Claire Murgatroyd

at 01:26 on 7th Aug 2014

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Implicitly branded as a confessional comedy, Al Donegan’s performance may have mildly entertained a portion of his audience, but it left its enticing concept sadly unfulfilled. Possibly thanks to the 21st century plethora of fast-paced action thrillers in box offices and on screens nationwide, one would tend to expect the shocking and sensational when they hear such a superlative title. But while Donegan’s material was somewhat perverse and unpleasant to contemplate, it was by no means as exciting or engagingly filthy as his promotional material would have us believe.

Staged at The Caves, the kind of intimate venue that would be perfect for shocking revelations, Al Donegan, self-confessed 'classically trained actor' and sole raconteur of his own real-life events, did not soliloquise as theatrically as one might have anticipated. He instead chose to debase himself in front of his audience; dancing, stripping and drinking - acts all more extraordinary than his scripted material. In spite of his joyless backstory, however, he was an engaging speaker, drawing us in and keeping the audience awake with his frequent use of slides and audience participation.

Admittedly it was not sensational, but Donegan’s performance, however, was certainly not without merit. Parts of Donegan’s performance transgressed from the simply unenthralling and into the realms of the businesslike, and the list-style format of his show, a countdown of unsavoury acts felt fairly formulaic, but it kept the pace up, making sure that, while all of his gags may not have got the reception they desired, at least they didn’t drag.

In addition, many of his jokes did reecive a good chuckle from the audience, while his obvious disdain for his underwhelming, damp venue provided us with a fair few moments of comedy. What was clear though, was that a great deal of organised, logistical thought had gone into making this performance a successful one. But perhaps that was the problem, as arguably, with a confessional piece, one has to go beyond such cerebral planning, and delve into the realm of of real emotion, and this piece just didn't manage to do that.

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Fay Watson

at 09:35 on 7th Aug 2014

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Al Donegan has done some bad things. Luckily, the play he wrote is not one of them. Set at Just the Tonic at the Caves, which we were directed to by a kind steward as "left at the bath tub", Al presents his one man show, which narrates the "worst things" he has ever done. And, boy, some of them are bad.

Before he is even introduced to the stage, we are told in a Voicemail from an ex-girlfriend that he is a "bad actor" and a "dick". It isn't the best introduction, but the self-deprecating story about Al accepting this label as a fairly accurate conclusion and coming to terms with it does redeem him. It is full of audience participation and genuinely funny stories - one of which was amazing, backed up by the quote "Oh, the money's gone". This is enjoyable escapism.

My main criticism, however, is that whilst eliciting laughs the whole performance felt very rehearsed. Now, I realise this is a strange criticism considering we are watching a performance that has in fact been rehearsed. But, the lack in spontaneity spoils the genuine feeling behind the moments of acceptance and conveys a lack of sincerity. Notably the concluding moments feel empty - fine in the context of comedy but as the performance leans towards meaning they fall flat.

The set and technical aspects are not mind-blowing (unless PowerPoint and deflated bouncy castles are your passion). The stage is predominantly bare except for the partnership of a skull and some WKD. And, for a man portraying himself at different periods of his life, his costume stays remarkably the same. However, the distinctive music and slick transitions are effective, with blackouts and titles often eliciting a laugh in themselves.

Indeed, do not be fooled by the business meeting set-up of chairs facing a PowerPoint presentation, this is no normal meeting (if it were it would break a bunch of regulations). Full of rudeness, honesty and an unforgettable dance routine, this is a feel-good show that will put a smile on your face and make you realise we all do bad things sometimes, but it is how we react to them that counts. Laughter is a good reaction.

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