Honest

Edwin Mullane in 'Honest' by DC Moore, Matchbox Theatre.

Edwin Mullane in 'Honest' by DC Moore, Matchbox Theatre.

The Matchbox Theatre, an excellent new venue in the heart of Dublin inside the Cafe des Irlandais, proved to be the ideal setting for DC Moore’s Edinburgh Fringe hit from 2010, Honest. Matchbox give a free beer with your ticket and since a good deal of Honest is taken up with a night-in-the-life of everyman type Dave as he drinks himself to a nightmarish denouement, it was the ideal place to stage this monologue about an individual living a normal life but, in the words of Thoreau, one of quiet desperation.

As DC Moore is an English playwright, a good job is done of converting the script into a Dublin and Irish idiom and context. Dave is a civil servant who works in a section of the civil service called The Strategic and Tactical Development Team. He mocks how government departments love to use words like ‘strategic’ and ‘tactical’. Sitting on a high stool with a pint of lager before him, he also tells us that he has reached a point in his life where just can’t lie anymore. He especially can’t tell those little white fibs that keep people happy in their daily lives. He has exhausted his ability to utter reassuring platitudes. We sense the comical yet ominous tones to come from Dave’s new-found honesty.

Some monologues can often turn out to be multi-voiced as the sole actor slips in and out of numerous characters to tell the tale. Honest, however, sticks with Dave only. Everything is from his perspective. Edwin Mullane does an engaging job of inhabiting the bored, work-wearied, and somewhat angry and frustrated Dave. The stage is largely cast in darkness apart from the spotlight shining almost like an interrogation tactic onto Dave. Slumped shoulders and the pint are enough to tell us that Dave is in a funk.

Addressing the audience directly at all times, Dave particularly rails against the incompetence of his colleagues. The central turning point in his tale occurs at a pub get-together to celebrate the promotion of someone he feels doesn’t merit it. Humorous descriptions of co-workers embarrassing themselves in a karaoke free for all are interspersed with Dave’s growing ire. Until he cracks and gives honesty a bad name.

Edwin Mullane’s portrait of Dave is an adequately charming snapshot of someone who presents a casual and indifferent face to those around him but who is disgusted with everyone and everything underneath it all. Mullane is excellent at shrug-of-the-shoulders indifference but there’s a certain lack of intensity about the screwed up side of his character’s personality. This might be partly because Adam O’Keefe’s direction is a little too gentle. One gets the impression that if the direction was more severe and sharper, then Mullane might have delivered a more in-your-face performance. The result is that, while we laugh at Dave, we are more or less indifferent to his m├ępris and frustration.

Overall, though, Back of the Hand’s rendition of Honest is a fine effort, one that entertains with casual confidence rather than burning with an underlying sense of the tragic element that is undoubtedly present in Dave’s unravelling life.

Patrick Brennan was chief theatre critic for the Irish Examiner from 1992 to 2004, is currently a freelance journalist, critic and lecturer and is writing a book on the theatre of Tom Murphy.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Honest by DC Moore

23 March - 3 April, 2011

Produced by Back of the Hand Theatre Company
In The Matchbox Theatre

Directed by Adam O’Keefe

With: Edwin Mullane