UP-AND-coming Galway ensemble Thereisbear! launched Druid’s emerging artists FUEL residency programme in fine style on Tuesday night at the Mick Lally Theatre with the premiere of No Show, written and directed by Peter Shine.
Set in 1970, the play centres on The Big Earl Showband Competition and introduces us to two of the contestants; eager, if naïve young greenhorn Tommy Clarke, and been-there-done-that veteran Maire Walsh, each of them desperate to win the Las Vegas residency that is the prize on offer.
The set comprises a raised platform at the rear of the stage where a four-piece band - Caoilfhionn Ní Chomhghain (bass ), Abaigh Donohue (keyboards ), Dylan Murphy (drums ), and Darragh O’Brien (guitar ) - smoothly conjure the musical world of the play while Tommy (Paul McCarrick ) and Maire (Grace Kiely ) pace the floor downstage and take turns in relating their accounts of the competition and the lengths to which they go in their desperation to win.
Tommy steals the costumes of a rival band, albeit at the urging of a fellow-contestant, Johnny Shortall, who Tommy looks up to, while Maire makes a hilariously botched attempt to seduce the contest’s eponymous American patron, Big Earl himself.
Shine’s script is full of sharp detail, lively incident, and humour. It conveys a keen sense of the graft, sweat, tears, and sheer bloody-mindedness required to make one’s way in a cut-throat music business.
Shine, who is Thereisbear!’s artistic director, also subtly reveals the personal pain and self doubt lurking beneath Tommy’s and Maire’s showbiz bravado. In this he is very well served by both McCarrick and Kiely, who turn in engaging, nuanced,performances that fully bring their characters to life.
However a little more could have been done as regards visual impact. Tommy for instance is kitted out in jumper and slacks throughout the play when it might have been better if he had donned some gaudy showband finery for at least part of the proceedings. Also, when Tommy and Maire give us snatches of song their voices are occasionally lost amid the musical backing so the sound balance should be tweaked.
These are minor cavils set against what is otherwise a very enjoyable and well-realised production. It emphatically attests to the considerable talent and promise of Thereisbear! and augurs well for their continuing artistic progress.
On No Show’s opening night Druid’s Craig Flaherty announced that the FUEL programme will be extended for another two years and if the future recipients do as good a job as Thereisbear! they will be doing very well indeed.