Patrick McDonnell

Patrick McDonnell

Stars Of Father Ted

Note: This review is from 2013

Gig review by Jay Richardson at the Galway Comedy Festival

'ARSE!', 'FECK!', 'GIRLS!' Such is the affection in which Father Ted is still held, more than 15 years after the dysfunctional priest sitcom ended, that 'Tedfests' continue to be held in both Ireland and the UK. And an audience crammed into the big backroom of a Galway pub needs little encouragement to growl Father Jack's catchphrases in unison.

A night called Stars Of Father Ted might imply an appearance by the surviving core cast members, Frank Kelly, Pauline McLynn and Ardal O'Hanlon, who used to occasionally acquiesce to singing My Lovely Horse in encores for his stand-up shows with a grudging but good-natured generosity.

Yet so memorable were the supporting cast of clerical caricatures and grotesque oddballs that Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews besieged the hapless Ted with, drawing broadly from across the Irish stand-up circuit, that even the bit-part players remain instantly recognisable and appreciated for their place in broadcast comedy history.

'It's Bloor in case you were asking. Oasis are shite these days,' compere Joe Rooney declares, alluding to his interrogation of Dougal as the delinquent young Father Damo, before leaving it at that.

Ted was a profile-raising moment for him and many others but it scarcely defines his career. With his slicked back hair and gifts as a musical comic you can see why he was cast as the cool, disaffected Damo. Yet Rooney's pastiches of The Dubliners songbook reveal a mischievous insight beyond the rebel-without-a-brain-cell of his on-screen counterpart.

His stand-up is more commonplace, mocking the luxurious lifestyle of livestock as related on pretentious Marks and Spencer food packaging and the eclectic range of goods available at Lidl. Regardless, he's an engaging host and maintains the love-in mood of the show.

As the interminably dull, inscrutable Father Stone, Michael Redmond was one of the series's most popular and recognisable characters. And he can still mine plenty of laughs from his distinctive, hangdog appearance, initially with some moustache and eyebrow-based silliness, later, with a bit of hair teasing for his trademark Albert Einstein impression.

His relaxed, rather philosophical humour doesn't always connect. And he relies too much on simply reciting verbatim from the wonderfully sexist 1952 tome Cookery For Men Only. But there's a keenly surreal imagination evident in his standout routines, recalling the wit of Irish writers like Flann O'Brien and Ian Macpherson, as when he muses on the origins of soup of the day or suggests a brilliant wheeze for persecuting Bono when he dies.

Like Rooney and Redmond, headliner Pat McDonnell with his 'big head' out of proportion to his squat body superficially resembles Eoin McLove, the monstrous and thinly disguised Daniel O'Donnell-alike he played in Ted. And there's a similar 'look at me!' hyperactivity to his stage manner.

But McDonnell directs that energy into an agitated assessment of Ireland's current travails, cramming an impressive density of material on the economic collapse into his set. Proposing some radical and ridiculous solutions, it's nevertheless all backed by an informed but simply conveyed grasp of politics and history.

Capably improvising on why the Irish can't be considered European, he's also amusingly contrary on the benefits of the British influence upon his country. Occasionally, the gabbling ferocity of his delivery obscures weaker aspects of the material. But it's often an impressive and persuasively tub-thumping performance.

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Published: 25 Oct 2013



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