The Humours of Bandon (Fishamble)
May 23 – 25
“The Humours of Bandon”, from acclaimed Irish theatre company Fishamble, is chronicle of the successes and disappointments of a young Dublin girl’s Irish Dancing life and from the buzzing pre-show crowd in the Powerhouse’s Visy Theatre, it is apparent that there is a commonality shared by audience dance mums (in real life not just fans of the reality tv show #guilty), given that perhaps the biggest early-show laugh-out-loud moment comes when question is asked as to if the dance competition will finish on time. Yet, the show has much to offer to more than just this audience demographic; you just have to know the demeanour of an exuberant-one-minute and sulky-the-next teenage girl and the dynamics of a mother/daughter relationship to appreciate the truths at the heart of its humour.
The question about the competition’s finish time is part of an early-show conversation by determined dancer 16-old-Annie and her mother, as part of routine preparations the night before the Irish Open Championships, both played by the show’s writer Margaret McAuliffe, jumping in and out of both roles. While this setup is assumedly exhausting for her, it’s not as tiring to audiences as it could have been in less able hands. In fact, its realisation is quite entertaining, with a scene in which the pair trip home after a third place ‘loss’, representing some of the show’s funniest moments, despite its simplicity.
McAuliffe is a talented performer, bringing to life not just the roles of Annie and her mother, but some of Annie’s fellow dancers and her dance instructor. In each instance her transition between roles is faultless and distinct, with characters displayed clearly through nuanced moments and posture changes and only ever the simplest of props.
In many ways “The Humours of Bandon” is a straightforward show, but like its traditional Irish folk song title source, it is this simplicity that allows for the quality of its performance to really shine through. As if a solo show is not challenging enough, the addition of playing multiple characters interacting with each other, only adds a layer of difficulty. McAuliffe also impressively delivers a dance instructor monologue while physically showcasing the complicated accompanying dance routine, resulting in deserved mid-show applause.
We learn the origins of the show’s title through the instructions of Annie’s dance teacher. The judges’ personal preferences and outline of what they expect to see in her competition routine, we learn through Annie’s explanation and practical demonstration. And when she brings it all together in a dynamic final routine, it represents another highlight of this full-of-heart one-woman show.
As much as “The Humours of Bandon” is an albeit highly-exaggerated and humourous observation of character, it is also a celebration of all that is quirky about the world of Irish Dancing competitions. It is tightly constructed to effectively embed foreshowing of events and scandals to follow from Annie’s first venture into the basketball arena venue and includes a number of interesting and informative moments too, such as when she explains the formula of angles underpinning the discipline. Yet, it is delivered with such truth that this never feels like a lecture, but rather a reminder of the power of a childhood passion. Indeed, its undeniable wit and charm makes “The Humours of Bandon” a wonderful way to spend our hour, plain and simple.