REVIEW: ‘Arsehammers’ /’Bonfire Night’, Oran Mor, Glasgow

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Cora Fenton in Arsehammers. Photo by Leslie Black

A Play, A Pie And a Pint

What a couple of doozies from Irish company Callback Theatre at Oran Mor this week. Claire Dowie’s brilliant double-bill, engagingly directed by John Sheehy, finds Cora Fenton on top form as two very different characters.

Brimming with schoolboy cheek and pathos, she’s the little lad with an aversion to beans on toast in Arsehammers. The wide-eyed monologue follows the boy, name unknown, as he attempts to comprehend adults and their unfathomable rules for living. His beloved Gran has recently passed away, leaving his Grandad to cope on his own.

This would be bad enough, but his grandfather is special. He has ‘Arsehammers’, a magical power which makes him teleport to various places, like the shops or motorway, when the rest of the family least expect it. It’s causing disputes, and the parents’ marriage is strained. Now they have to put him in a home, and the lad is not best pleased. “He’s permanently missing”, he sighs.

The illness is of course, Alzheimers. Dowie’s eye for the way children process information, particularly sad news, is nothing short of heartbreaking. Fenton’s performance is full of hurt and hope, as only those living in the moment can possess. It’s moving, hilarious and true.

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Cora Fenton in Bonfire Night. Photo by Leslie Black

Bonfire Night is even darker, though no less powerful and hilarious. A frumpy, middle-aged eccentric, all darting eyes and breathless explanations (all delivered in a coat which almost drowns her and Deirdre Barlow glasses) describes how the death of her mother, caused by a drink driver, led her to take drastic measures. Imagine Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers with the twisted moral compass of its protagonists, fused with Father Ted‘s bonkers tea lady Mrs Doyle, and you’re about halfway there.

Fenton mines laughs from her sheer physicality- childlike vulnerability laced with cartoonish timing. She’s simply comedy dynamite. Her character’s casual disdain for authority leaves mouths agape. What happens when the broken need to take revenge? Well, you simply hide a gun in your knickers, wait until the shots can be disguised by the sound of fireworks on November 5th, and pack some sandwiches.”Everyone should have a hobby”, this poor, lonely, grieving woman grins and grimaces, unsure of her status in the world. Her hobby just happens to be assassination.She is the Daily Mail’s worst nightmare, and almost indecently funny.

(Lorna Irvine)

At Oran Mor, Glasgow until May 28th.



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