With a controlled swagger reminiscent of Robert Mitchum, Pat Kinevane, dressed in a shiny black raincoat, steps on stage through the dark ribboned curtain into some stunning lighting effects. Sounds of repeated exhalations turn to a chorus in the background and it’s clear that something very special is about to unfold.
It’s a rainy night in Dublin and Pontius has come to the capital to meet his daughter Astor who he’s not seen for 17 years. On the city’s iconic department store, Clery’s, final day of business, he is there to buy her a present. A voice over providing the department store announcements changes tone as the performance proceeds, addressing Pontius directly when he still hasn’t bought a gift.
What follows is a monologue like no other. The son of a seamstress mother and singer father, Pontius narrates his history interwoven with songs from the musicals he detests yet clearly knows intimately. In a refreshing subversion of the genre where reality famously goes out the window, he tells his own story with a raw honesty and passion that spans his own very human experience. Under Jim Culleton’s smart direction, Kinevane inhabits the stage as he simultaneously shocks, amuses and entertains.
It is at once deeply profound and absolutely grounded yet with the surreal element of Kinevane breaking into some musical hits along the way. He accompanies them with dancing of beautiful masculine elegance, choreographed by Emma O’Kane, that is a pleasure to watch as he glides, twists and taps across the stage skillfully channelling Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. He performs immaculate syncing with the music composed by Denis Clohessy that has been specially recorded by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.
Themes of time and the sense of déjà vu infuse this production along with Pontius often astutely noting how some folk do bad stuff just to ‘get away with it’. But the overriding message is the importance of what it is to be loved.
Ireland’s award winning company Fishamble and Pat Kinevane, whose smiling sincerity is palpable, have created an extraordinary tour de force with Before. It is nothing less than a privilege to witness this unique talent in a show that is utterly singular and steeped in surprise. With the power to make you laugh, cry, think and feel, Before is fabulous physical theatre.