Review: Silent: Hotbed Festival – The Junction, Cambridge

A 75 minute one man show about homelessness. Not a topic that seems destined to provide many laughs but in Pat Kinevane’s mesmerising one-man show for Fishamble, we get laughs and tears in equal measure.

Life is tough on the streets of Dublin if you are homeless. Tino McGoldrig (short for Valentino) emerges from under his blanket to tell us his life story and how he became homeless. It’s been a tough life even before he takes to the streets. His brother has committed suicide, a grievous stigma in a staunchly Catholic family. In a less tolerant age his brother’s homosexuality the subject of persecution and violence and Tino feels powerless to protect his brother.

This isn’t a family familiar with the concept of care though. A careless mother, an ex-wife and an ongoing battle with addiction, not conducive to Tino’s mental health.

Part monologue, part dance, part physical theatre, part film noir, Kinevane fuses styles to create a unique world to explore a man’s decline. It’s deliberately unsettling and provocative – while we can sympathise with his situation we should never be accepting of it and the shifting styles do keep audiences engaged throughout.

Kinevane’s powerful script takes us on a journey deep into McGoldrig’s tortured mind. It’s a script packed full of wry observations of a community’s response to homelessness, addition, suicide and mental health issues, but also a deeply personal and brutally honest look at self. There’s something both poetic and brutally frank about the language that it becomes instantly accessible.

Kinevane’s performance is key to the success of the piece. Performed with a precision and total conviction it commands attention from the outset. Every movement, every inflection, every line delivered with pin-point accuracy. It is also testament to Kinevane’s skills as both a writer and performer that the piece, despite its bleak situation, remains ultimately life affirming. Tino may have fallen on hard times but he retains his optimism and outlook and dares the world to laugh with him and not at him.

Simple staging, effective lighting and an atmospheric underscored soundscape by Denis Clohessy provides just the right level of setting and context to what is otherwise an abstract world.

Silent is one of those productions that lingers long in the mind, long after the lights fade. The issues it raises often sit unspoken in our communities so productions such as this that give those issues a voice are vital. Truly mesmerising and inspiring.

Originally written for The Public Reviews:

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