Wet Paint

Rabbit Hat Theatre Company, in association with The Granary Theatre, present 'Wet Paint' by Shane Casey.

Rabbit Hat Theatre Company, in association with The Granary Theatre, present 'Wet Paint' by Shane Casey.

Actor Shane Casey developed the idea for this play about male friendship and the limits of masculine communication in order to create, among other things, “a show that his parents would enjoy seeing.” True to this ideal, this no fuss production offers a straightforward, humorous antidote to the barrage of grim news awaiting us each morning, and, as such, provides its audience with a solid night’s entertainment, unfolding as it does effortlessly over a 50 minute period.

Despite its simplicity, however, Casey’s script – developed in association with director Evelyn Quinlan – is not a slight piece of work, and invests in tight dialogue and rounded characters in order to drive forward a show that deals in some of the very fundamentals of human interaction.

The play is set in Cork in 2005, in that long lost era when the country was booming and trainee painter/decorators could walk onto a place on a FÁS course without concern. The talk is light, and the two students and their mentor muse about such vital issues as the cost of lunchtime jambons, Liverpool's prospects in the Champions League, the arrival of that “blind opera singer guy” to the city and the difficulty of securing tickets for his concert.

Casey has drawn on the Cork accent and idiom to create believable characters who roll one-liners off their tongues. “My dreams are disappearing by the day,” says bossman Tony, whose holiday tan from the Canaries is starting to fade under the just emerging pressure of financial difficulties that keep him looking over his
shoulder for the clampers, and may ultimately lead to him laying off one of his trainees.

Tony – played with comic grace by Mark O'Shaughnessy – is a disgruntled kind, doing his best to do right by his students, but harking constantly backwards to an “almost famous” moment on the Late Late Show, when a little white lie helped him to both shine briefly and to win the heart of his wife.

Pa – a gentle Shane Falvey – is a dreamer, with better things on his mind than painting the walls and ceilings, although a past foreign adventure gone wrong has curbed his wanderlust for the present.

Meantime, Barry, played with aplomb by the charismatic Casey himself, is the laddish type, bragging about his sexual exploits, swaggering about the workplace, but hiding problems and vulnerabilities that he has no way of divulging to others.

This is the sort of play that, if allowed, could easily go over the top, or descend into the realms of caricature. However, director Quinlan errs on the side of restraint, creating an eloquent, seamless piece of work that moves fluidly between character interaction and monologues, and offers recognisable portraits of men under pressure to understand who they are. Barry’s monologue – the last in the show – offers particular and poignant insight into the gulf between the ways in which men are conditioned to view themselves and the very real pain and confusion they may be experiencing underneath the masks they wear.

Perhaps Casey may have tried to go deeper, and to situate the play, to a greater extent than he has, within an evolving economic and social landscape that is having major implications on the notions of masculinity in this country. But, on the whole, this short show keeps it simple, and in doing so, stays close to the play's original reason for being, managing to locate itself – as is the case with the best theatre – within the local and the universal at the same time.

Ultimately, the show also announces Casey's arrival as a creator of coherent, subtle theatre that offers space for characterisation, dialogue and an interrogation of themes inherent to the preoccupations of life. It's a solid beginning for a theatre maker who has already proved himself as an actor, and may yet carve for himself an accompanying role as a writer as well.

Rachel Andrews is a journalist and critic based in Cork.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Wet Paint by Shane Casey

29 - 31 October, 2010

Produced by Rabbit Hat Theatre Productions and The Granary Theatre
In Granary Theatre

Directed by Evelyn Quinlan

Lighting Design: Steve Neale

Sound: Amanda Ferriter

With: Shane Casey, Shane Falvey and Mark O Shaughnessy