Frank Carson - A Rebel Without a Pause
Guy Masterson - TTI & Happenstance Theatre Co
Half a decade after his death, the Irish comedian Frank Carson is best remembered for his catchphrases, "that's a cracker!" and "it's the way I tell 'em!" than anything else, yet as A Rebel Without a Pause plainly shows, there was far more to the man than a few phrases or even a near endless stream of chucklesome old jokes.
Dan Gordon's portrayal of Carson is note perfect, quipping the sometimes awkwardly dated jokes that pepper the performance with the requisite amount of innocent cheek and amiable charm. And were the show simply to cover the jokes and the comedy, then Gordon would cope admirably, no doubt.
However, this is a far deeper and cleverer construction, as each gag either leads from or toward a different subject, occasionally undercutting a shocking or tragic moment with needed levity, or to hammer home a point.
Carson's life was not easy and, as we follow him from the difficulties of living in abject poverty as a Catholic boy in '30s Belfast, routinely beaten by his father and grandfather, then on through his posting to Jerusalem in The Parachute Regiment, it's clear that religious divisions and a mistrust of the British government were clearly influential on his life, even if he never spoke out in that regard.
It's a touchingly humanising portrayal of a figure that exists in the eyes of many as little more than a funny man from a harsher and less progressive time, showing the man who lived beneath the catchphrases, and the true spirit of his soul.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan