Saturday, September 09, 2017

Review - Not the Norn Iron News (episode 1)

“We’re not going to have a government until gays can get married in Irish” said warm-up act Conor McGinley as he conflated a number of unresolved political issues together. He set the scene for an evening of comedy that was socially liberal, anti-DUP and allegedly progressive with his pop at a DUP party officer and the exposé of the Irish Catholic tendencies of a local radio presenter.

The three main performers sat behind a coffee table on the MAC stage to gently mull over some of the news of the week before returned to the stage for their solo sets.

John-Paul Whearty wore a velvet jacket and has a brushed beard that’s so soft you could stuff pillows with it. He used his cunningly minimalist style of questioning to elicit some great lines from audience members who were brought on stage in the first half to back up his theses that “the news doesn’t change” and “we don’t pay attention”. He returned to that theme after the interval as he sat in the central chair, fending off hecklers with aplomb, and calling on the audience to “come together as one” and engage in politics and draw Northern Ireland away from mediocrity.

Newcomer Barbara Wheaty was the most naturally funny performer of the bunch with a spot on impersonation of the bus tour sales patter you hear in front of the City Hall. She wrapped up some scathing retorts in a blanket of sincerity as she responded to some whacky audience suggestions around how to resolve the problem of the Irish border after Brexit. And who knew that people who keep their toaster in a cupboard could be such a comic concept? A promising performer whose eye for detail and throwaway quips generate giggles aplenty

The self-described “sissy boy from Lurgan” David Doherty-Jebb was resplendent in his pinstripe kilt and launched into a history lesson on sodomy, bargain bomb sales and a morally backward DUP (complete with pictures of Iris and Kirk). His point was well made when he examined the myth of straight white cis male oppression and call for allies (which reminded me of aspects of Taylor Mac’s performances on the same stage last October) but the character assassination of Jolene Bunting was harking back to the worst of LADFLEG. You can’t preach progressive while taking the piss out of someone’s speech and fashion: it damages the message.

This new comedy vehicle from the Whearty-Doherty-Gebb clan with its loose mix of observation and satire promised “two hours of side splitting comedy live at The MAC”. It over-delivered on the duration, with a three hour show that unlike JP’s beard needs to be severely trimmed along with a toning down of the preachiness and the total focus on demonising the DUP and extreme unionism. While Ben Elton got away with hating the Tories in a two and a half party system, Not the Norn Iron News surely needs to widen its scope right across the political spectrum (including the cosy centre ground).

The night finished with the strongest material: a clever Arlene/Adele parody that had intelligent lyrics and a visual performance that entertained and showed off the team’s true talent. Filling The MAC’s downstairs theatre with paying punters to see a new show is quite an achievement. With an injection of songs, snappier routines and less reliance on audience involvement, the format could develop into a returning format that builds a reputation and a following.

Photo of performers above from Facebook.

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