Thursday, May 05, 2022

No Citation – a piano man finally faces up to his life and loves (Lyric Theatre until Sunday 8 May)

As Jeremy Wolfe McCarthy sits down to turn out some tunes, the silky-tongued piano man (played by Kyron Bourke) finds himself confronted by his past, in particular, the women that he schmoozed and smooched, used and abused. It quickly becomes a battle of wills with an aloof Everywoman (Maeve Smyth) who walks the unreconstructed musician through his errant encounters and challenges him to consider his actions.

No Citation is a voyage of imagination, a real musical ‘trip’ – in all senses of the word – as McCarthy reacts to the mirror held up to his life. Sitting behind a piano, playing while the audience take their seats and finish their conversations, a silver microphone waits to capture the central character’s husky tones. Soon it will be revealed whether we are McCarthy’s audience, or merely noisy customers in his jazz bar.

Sarcasm drips from Everywoman’s commentary and Smyth’s soulful voice is a match for Bourke’s magical bass (and his fine falsetto), the pair blending like some of the fictional lovers who know each other’s gorgeous curves and instinctive moves. Pádraig Dooney joins their musical dance as McCarthy’s one-time saxophonist, while a backstage band (drum and trumpet) accompany the pianist’s melodies. At times, it’s tempting to close your eyes and lean back into the embrace of the comforting jazz.

Nessa Does the Blues is an early introduction to the team’s talents. Later lyrics contain a mixture of re-creation and reflection, with some funny moments thrown in: “yes it was me who left the toilet seat up … who left the butterknife in the marmalade”.

About two-thirds of the way through the 65-minute show, the mood shifts as a more unsettling encounter with Marguerite is uncovered. It’s the moment for the audience to decide whether McCarthy is now a good man with a colourful past, or is a selfish philanderer beyond redemption.

Baby I’m a Fool simply, yet rather profoundly, wraps up McCarthy’s spell in limbo before the more up-beat When I Was Young.   

No Citation is an unexpected and unpredictable tale, engaging and entertaining. Director Rhiann Jeffrey allows the show to experiment with form and style. It’s a treat, albeit one with some adult themes, a universal what-if, asking what happens if opportunity and self-indulgence collide, and whether when wrecks are abandoned at the side of the road, there can be a journey to recovered. Spend an hour in the musical company of Kyron, Maeve and Pádraig and enjoy their warm hug of jazz even while the unsettling story catches up with the gorgeous music, and you can make your own mind up at the Lyric Theatre until Sunday 8 May.

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