Red Kettle Theatre Company took a brave step into their new twenty-five years of making theatre and at the same time kept the faith with an emerging author Paul O’Brien. Happy Like a Fool is Red Kettle’s 35th new play which is a proud record that is added to by as many new works for children with Little Red Kettle.
Happy Liek a Fool is not an easy play to understand and you only make sense of it well into the second act. It looks at two psychotic characters who visit an ordinary house to either wine and dine a girl or torture her. It has several clever layers that have a touch of Sam Shepherd and Martin McDonagh, with confusing set pieces that start up again and again and repeat actions and dialogue to reveal just a little of the possibly too clever by a third. Roles are reversed and the girl has two distinct personalities, dark haired Lily and blonde Penny.
Ben Hennessy’s direction feeds this cleverness and you sense all is not as it seems. Bit by bit it reveals itself and you find yourself not so much at a play within a play or a series of plays but within an author’s mind as he edits and changes the outcomes as he sees fit.
Even the set has secrets, almost hidden exits and a room behind a theatrical scrum that lights up to reveal a red bedroom and the possibility of kinky happenings. Then by the end the familiar idiot boy Murt who bears the brunt of savage beatings from Rayray or Jake turns out to be the author as his laptop flashed up part of the text you had just experienced. Possibly too clever for the audience.
But it was a Technicolour triumph and a powerful evening in the presence of three quality actors at the top of their skills.
Joanne Crawford was the two girls, Nick Kavanagh was the classical psychopath full of menace and danger. Joe Meagher was as it turned out much more than the crazy in the head retarded oinseach of Oirish plays. Maree Kearns designed the production, Jamie Beamish did the sound design and Clare Horgan did the costume design with items provided by Golly gosh – a tiny swing-a-cat emporium of magic and clothing ideas.