Watching Roland Emmerich Movie was nothing less than an insane experience, writes Paul Fennessy
Roland Emmerich Movie was both the best and the worst Dramsoc play otwo has ever seen. It was the worst in the sense that the actors often forgot their lines, the plot was never truly coherent and some necessary props were nonexistent. Yet it was the best for the very same reasons outlined.
The cause of its ultimate success can be attributed to how the actors turned the aforementioned weaknesses into strengths. This factor, coupled with a sharp, witty script courtesy of Fergal Casey, managed to ensure that an unlikely triumph materialised – and one which represented a fitting end to Dramsoc’s “Original Writers Week”.
The play (co-directed by Casey and Fiachra MacNamara) concerned a group of desperate actors, who pitch their script to a typically world-weary and cynical Hollywood studio executive, by way of a performance. What ensued was a narrative which satirically ticked every cliché in the action movie genre, with levels of ludicrousness befitting of Emmerich himself.
Although the performance was a one-off never likely to be repeated, Keith Thompson’s (who incidentally also contributed to the conceptualisation of the play’s original story) brilliantly madcap turn inhabiting nine different characters will doubtless linger long in audience members’ memories. otwo knew of Thompson’s reputation as an eccentric stage performer before the play, but was still unprepared for the sheer unpredictability that would accompany his theatrics.
Thompson’s wanton neglect of dialogue, his delivery of an array of different accents and his boundless hyperactivity may not have been looked upon favourably by thespian purists. Nonetheless, his performance left most audience members utterly captivated and crying with laughter.
One of the most hilarious visual gags occurred when two of the characters that Thompson plays were engaged in conversation. As a way of navigating this tricky situation, Thompson would deliver his lines in one accent before dashing over to another part of the room and responding to his other character’s lines in an altogether different accent. Consequently, what the show lacked in verisimilitude, it more than made up for with sheer chutzpah and inspired improvisation.
Of the other performers, Rob O’Donoghue as the action hero and Feargal Keenan as the studio executive were particular standouts. The air of befuddled charm that O’Donoghue exuded provided a perfect send-up of the prototypical all-American action hero, while Keenan executed the required, stereotypical producer mannerisms with aplomb. And given the aforementioned dearth in props and the short length of time allowed to prepare for the show, all concerned acquitted themselves admirably.
Casey’s script, meanwhile, contained numerous laugh-out loud moments. Jokey references to Avatar’s implicit racism and Sherlock Holmes’ absence of plot, in addition to action movies’ constant homoerotic undertones, were particularly well-received by audience members and justifiably so.
It would have been interesting though to see how a less partisan crowd would have greeted the performance, since the audience comprised largely of Dramsoc associates. Some jokes were, admittedly, quite niche. For example, at one point, the studio executive expresses his reservations with Thompson’s character’s idiosyncratic behaviour. Another character then responds: “Sorry about that, he’s from the Patrick Doyle school of method acting”. Needless to say that the Dramsoc-dominated audience lapped up this joke, as Doyle is a practical legend in the society’s circles, due to his penchant for exhibiting Thompson-esque degrees of onstage whimsicality. However, others may have been confused as to who exactly Patrick Doyle was.
Although the casual viewer may not have quite grasped some of the script’s clever references, otwo suspects that the ample levels of less sophisticated humour (the slapstick-infused ninja sequences spring to mind) would have been more than enough to satisfy everyone.
Therefore, given REM’s ostensible accessibility and memorable acting, it is a shame that Dramsoc only elected to green-light one performance of the play – a fate which is ironic due to the script’s focus on the perpetual struggles involved in getting a movie green-lighted.
Nevertheless, Casey – whose script (co-written with John Healy) for last year’s 1960s Batman was one of the main reasons it gained the prestigious accolade of being the highest grossing lunchtime play staged by Dramsoc last year – can at least be safe in the knowledge that, as far as one-off performances go, this had everything but the kitchen sink.