Death of a Comedian at Soho Theatre
Death of a Comedian follows the titular character “Comedian” on his rise on the comedy circuit from dive bars to headlining shows. Created by playwright-in-residence at the Lyric Theatre, Owen McCafferty, and directed by Soho Theatre artistic director, Steve Marmion, the piece is a collaboration between Soho Theatre, Lyric Theatre Belfast and Abbey Theatre Dublin. It brings together three well respected theatres for an exploration of the lures and pitfalls of showbiz.
Shaun Dinwall’s “Agent” is like Mephistopheles, his motives are clear, he wants success and growth for the career of his client, yet it is never clear how far his manipulations are of malicious intent. Does he really care about Comedian? He is fast-talking, slick and smooth in his delivery; all this adds to his snake oil salesman charm. He shows his clients dreams they may not even conceived yet, perhaps at the expense of the their actual desires.
“Girlfriend” played by Katie McGuinness seems to be the voice of reason: supportive, assertive and nurturing. However, battles with Agent over Comedian’s future must lead us also to question her motives. She does seem to have Comedian’s best interests at heart, and is willing to make the journey with him as long as he remains true to himself. Nevertheless, there is something condescending about Agent and Girlfriend’s conversations, as though he is too simple to be trusted in his own decisions.
Brian Doherty is likeable as Comedian, who leads into the play questioning whether he is funny, still appearing focused on what his intended outcome is in the world of comedy. As his career develops, that self-doubt is never reduced. In fact, as more opportunities are presented to him, rather than growing more certain of himself, he only seems to falter more.
For someone who has no stand-up comedy experience, McCafferty has captured the rise with great insight, including writing all the jokes for the comedic sets. While these jokes are not intended to be the focus of the play, they set the tone as they are amended for each gig, demonstrating what aspects of Comedian’s personality and principles he abandons in pursuit of laughs. As the set increasingly strips back throughout the performance to simply a spotlight, Comedian, and the audience, the question remains thick in the air: what is success, and what must one sacrifice in order to achieve it?
Death of a Comedian is on at Soho Theatre from 14th April until 16th May 2015, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Death of Comedian here:
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