Malachy might wake up hopeful, but by the time we meet him, he’s tucking into his “last meal” of KFC, washing it down with wine and contemplating ending it all. This one man play, written by John Patrick Higgins, and performed by comedian Christian Talbot, is a ruminative affair, flecked with gallows humour and a distinctively Irish sorrowfulness.
It’s a well-written, introspective piece with some neat turns of phrase. One suspects it would work at least as well off the written page as in performance. The theme of hope and its ruinous consequences is returned to throughout, as we hear of Malachy’s pitiful life and the incidents that have shaped it. There’s not been a lot of joy for the poor guy, and the little he’s had has been taken from him, hence the fried chicken last supper. He’s not a man that deserves an undignified end, but you can understand him seeking one.
For his part, Talbot suits the role. He wears a mournful, hangdog look very well and is clearly fully in tune with the mood of the piece. He doesn’t play it very big though. His performance feels underpowered and a little timid, glancing furtively round the room rather than fully confronting the audience. Talbot also has his own stand-up show at the Fringe; this is his first Fringe play, which might explain the sense of someone out of their comfort zone, and the occasional stumbling over words.
It all goes a bit Bad Sex Award for a short hotel room encounter, full of red cocks and shell-like vaginas. The encounter adds to the general sense of desolation and disillusionment, the anatomical detail doesn’t. There’s also little felt at the end that isn’t felt throughout. The fatalistic tone is set early on. That said, it’s a contemplative piece of good new writing that earns its audience’s attention.