Fabulous Beast, James Son of James

Review in Issue 20-2 | Summer 2008

This, the third part in Michael Keegan-Dolan’s trilogy examining the changing social landscape of Ireland’s Midlands is a broad mix of song, dance and text. The premise rests on the events that happen when the eponymous James returns home for his father’s funeral, setting off a gradual disintegration of a small town’s social order.

As a piece of narrative dance-theatre this show ticks along at a cracking pace, carrying the audience’s attention and playing the story quite clearly and creating some entertaining moments. At times, though, the limited dialogue feels stilted, and is actually quite invasive amongst the highly charged and inventive duets Keegan-Dolan stages.

Characters are titled as broad archetypes, and there is a flavour of Greek Tragedy in the events that come to pass. The piece seems to ask us to empathise with the characters, but it feels as if the characters are in need of a little more depth or truth to them if this is to be achieved. Daphne Strothmann and Cliodhna Hoey (as The Politician’s Wife and Woman from the East respectively) are the exception in this regard.

The use of song lies closer to the musical than the oratorio nature of voice in some other physical theatres, unpicking themes or acting as choral soliloquies; though at points the lyrics come across as clumsy and overstate the case a little. This leads to moments where you feel as if something has been missed, moments that could lift the piece out of the workmanlike to the poetic.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Feb 2008

This article in the magazine

Issue 20-2
p. 34