A stunning one-man journey into the depths of homelessness.
Anyone with an Irish grandma will recognise the narrative style in ‘Silent’: long, rambling monologues veering between memory, gossip, joy and sorrow, while a captive audience struggles to grasp just what on earth Nana is going on about.
In this one-man show from Irish company Fishamble, writer and performer Pat Kinevane channels that style. He’s playing Tino McGoldrig, ‘way beyond the cuckoo’s nest’ and homeless on the streets of 1980s Dublin, relating fragments of his sorry life with songs and silly voices.
He’s completely shaved, his eyes coated with black eyeliner as though half-dressed for a drag act. He wears a ripped tailcoat over a black vest and trackie bottoms. There’s little else in the Soho’s upstairs space – just the blank, black stage of Tino’s mind.
As we piece together the narrative, that Tino’s brother Pierce was gay and heavily depressed, gradually it becomes clear that ‘Silent’ is obliquely, but no less profoundly, about homelessness, homophobia and mental health. It’s about the members of society who have been forced by stigma into silence. Gay, mad or homeless? Back then you didn’t even get the time of day. Kinevane shows how often and how closely the three were interrelated.
His memories, recounted with slurred speech and a thick Cork accent, have become enlarged and fantastical from marinating in his mind for so long. When Tino turns his blanket into his wife, or does an impression of his vicious mother, it’s pure entertainment, especially during a wonderful scene with an Actimel yogurt. We want to laugh – and often do – but is Tino falling apart? Or has that in fact already happened?
The improvised elements, the stuttering speech and the physicality almost get in the way of realising that there is a beautiful and meticulous script underneath. The simplicity and richness of Kinevane’s language is stunning, both capturing an Irish idiom and resounding with the uniqueness of Tino’s own extraordinary voice.
Kinevane’s message is deadly serious, but he tells his story in a playful and often joyful way. He’s extremely charismatic, filling the whole stage with his physicality and charm as we’re led apace through the bipolarities of life: laughter and misery.