Review: Before at Dance Base
5★★★★★

Yer man, Pat Kinevane is at it again! Making you split your sides at droll, dry humour that’s full of nippy observational details – and then bringing a sudden lump to your throat with the revelation of a character’s inner griefs.

These strands intertwine throughout Before, Kinevane’s latest venture with Ireland’s Fishamble theatre company. He’s written the script, then communed with long-time collaborator Jim Culleton – who, as a director, is hand in glove with Kinevane’s intentions. Another trusted collaborator, Denis Clohessy, provides the music and Emma O’Kane has choreographed the Fosse-fantastic hoofing routines that bring an unexpected razzle-dazzle to a tale of heartache and wistful hopes.

Does that maybe mean there’s a woman involved? It does. She’s the daughter of an (unmarried) backwater farmer called Pontius. He hasn’t seen her in seventeen years: she’s been his forever-secret but he’s never forgotten her and today – on her 21st birthday – he’s ventured up to Dublin to meet her. He’s gone looking for the ideal present in Clery’s, once the city’s plushest high-end department store and now about to close. As memories flood back, Pontius keeps going into consummately pastiched song and dance numbers, even though – for sorrowful family reasons – he hates musicals.

The sheer improbability of happy-ever-after – usually after various misunderstandings – is sent up in Kinevane’s wittily crafted lyrics, even as Clohessy’s melodies cunningly catch the recognisable ambience of hits from Cabaret, Oklahoma and their popular ilk. Kinevane sings and dances with bravura aplomb, and it’s grand.

But listen up – he’s revealing the rage and anguish of all the yearning fathers who are exiled from their children’s lives when relationships turn toxic. It’s a chewy, divisive issue fraught with pain and resentments, but it’s a springboard for Kinevane to explore what constitutes parenting, fatherhood and unconditional love. Let’s not give away the ending – it’s another profoundly affecting tour de force from Kinevane.

Before, Dance Base, 2-25 Aug, 8.45pm

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