Kings Of The Road

Note: This review is from 2003

Review by Steve Bennett

Temporarily tired of stand-up following a gruelling UK tour, Ed Byrne has taken to dramatic acting for his Edinburgh appearances this year. And the play he's chosen is this touching tale of uncomfortable father-son relationships across three generations of Northern Irish bus drivers.

The production opens with a crop-haired Byrne talking to his father as he lies in a hospital bed, in a coma and swathed in bandages. Facing up to the impending death, he angrily reminisces about their past, evoking the whole gamut of emotions between man and boy. An emotive scene, it was played out to an audible heartbeat, enhancing the eerie, sombre atmosphere.

A ghostly grandfather then joins this family gathering to impart further tales of woe, hardship and dedication from life in the bus lane; before we flashback to Byrne's character as a 16-year-old, undergoing his rites of passage under the eye of his happy-go-lucky father.

As an actor, Byrne often seemed nervous and out of his depth, but fantastic performances from Michael Smiley and James Ellis more than compensated.

The parochial setting proved warmly endearing, contributing to the success of a moving and sentimental play. It is not the hilarious comedy billed in the Fringe's comedy section, but a mildly amusing, heartfelt piece.

Review date: 1 Jan 2003
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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