Jack Kairo and the Long Hard Kiss Goodbye

Patrick O'Donnell and Simon Toal in 'Jack Kairo and The Long Hard Kiss Goodbye'. Photo: Niall Moore

Patrick O'Donnell and Simon Toal in 'Jack Kairo and The Long Hard Kiss Goodbye'. Photo: Niall Moore

This isn’t detective Jack Kairo’s first time on stage. Conceived and performed by Simon Toal, the character previously featured in the one-man show The Friends of Jack Kairo, which premiered at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2005. In this latest instalment, Toal is joined on stage by Patrick O’Donnell, and the pair conjure a madcap array of bizarre characters and unlikely situations that the detective encounters while attempting to solve his case.

Although drawing on the 1940s film noir genre for inspiration, with a clear nod to Raymond Chandler’s novels (especially the fictional detective Phillip Marlowe), the play takes a much zanier approach to its subject matter. The performance begins with Kairo directly revealing to us that he is in pursuit of a Mister Jonny F, owner of the Pink Flamingo nightclub, understood to have a connection to the recent spree of "austerity murders" which resulted from the imposition of protection tax. While it’s hard to keep logical track on Kairo’s case as it rapidly unfolds, and the form switches between narration and dialogue, what stands out is the colourful, often grotesque manner in which the play’s 13 characters are evoked, from the elusive Manuka Honey to the sex-mad Lomos Calientes. Over the hour of the performance, amid all the silliness and pastiche, Toal’s story also strives for a contemporary satirical jab. Not only does the tale kick off with the plight of tax and austerity, but Kairo also ends up chasing the mysterious hit man known as the Bondholder, later identified as ‘Merkel’.

Jack Kairo and the Long Hard Kiss GoodbyeThe performance is carried by strong, highly physical work by O’Donnell and Toal, who create a labyrinthine cityscape from an electric fan, a couple of chairs and a costume box. Vincent O'Reilly’s direction keeps the action large, buoyant and well-paced, mainly taking place at the front of the small rectangular room which makes up the TheatreUpstairs space.

While the script has fun with the detective genre, it ultimately becomes bogged down with schoolboy gags about excrement and genitals, with plenty of jokes about gay men and women to boot. While some of the laughs quite engagingly emerge from mistaken identities, convoluted storylines or botched investigative work, most of the punchlines are either too childish or offensive to be humorous. So, very quickly into the piece there’s an onslaught of references such as "faggot", "scrotum", "balls," and "whacking off". About half-way through, when Lomos appears to boast of his sexual prowess with women, he says "My balls are full of love and I must spread that love all over their feces." Later, he tells Jack that he lives in a "dark vagina of despair". Though admittedly many of the audience seemed to find these exchanges funny, the carnal language quickly becomes laboured, charmless and in some places offensive, preventing the piece from being the smarter, wittier romp it could have been.

Fintan Walsh is Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance at Queen Mary, University of London.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Jack Kairo and the Long Hard Kiss Goodbye by Simon Toal, with Patrick O’Donnell and Vincent A. Reilly

30 July - 11 August, 2012

Produced by Sheer Tantrum
In Theatre Upstairs

Story by Simon Toal

Written and devised by Patrick O’Donnell, Vincent A. Reilly and Simon Toal

Directed by Vincent A. Reilly

Lighting: Colm Ivers

Sound: Konrad Kania

With: Patrick O’Donnell and Simon Toal