The boy (Gerard Adlum) tells the tale of a man he once knew; a vaudevillian showman who traveled the length and breadth of Ireland bringing a little mystery and excitement with him as he went. This showman, Kerrigan (Stephen Brennan) is travelling with his troupe: an “Italian” strongman (from Sligo) and a “German” mesmerist who seems decidedly from the northern counties when off stage. The boy, enchanted by this travelling posse, decides to run away with the vaudeville act, initially unbeknownst to Kerrigan and his band of merry men. What the boy is running from is unknown but he soon realises that everyone has a past and that all is not as it appears to be. He quickly, though mutely, becomes a part of the group and is taken under the wing of Kerrigan. With much resistance from his troupe, Kerrigan insists on travelling to Cork, specifically Middleton. Given that the country is in the midst of a War of Independence, and Cork being a hive of unrest, the arrival of a well spoken Kerrigan with a somewhat English accent leads to trouble.
A litany of unfortunate incidents, perhaps a little too many for a short piece, herald Kerrigan’s downfall. When he falls, he falls fast. Kerrigan regales the boy with his own story of travelling from London to Ireland, following the siren song of a fair colleen, which, he claims, set him off on his pursuit of entertaining the masses. Throughout The Man in Two Pieces the audience are faced with the truth and truth as it is told. Kerrigan doesn’t lie; he’s an entertainer, so he entertains. What difference does it make if the German mesmerist is neither German nor has the ability to mesmerise? The facts are not what make a good story. And the obstruction of fact can be more entertaining than the facts themselves. Each character (and indeed each person) has that which is shown and that which is hidden. What is Kerrigan’s truth? What is the boy’s? In the end, the truth and the facts bear little resemblance to each other.
This is a beautiful little production, both aesthetically pleasing and entertaining. It does what any vaudevillian would be proud of; it makes the audience laugh while also tugging on their heartstrings and making them think. The acting, direction, and overall design are exactly as they should be. Adlum plays many roles and is impressive as he portrays people portraying other people, which is key to the theme of The Man in Two Pieces. Similarly, Brennan’s versatility shines through and he wholly fills the role of the vaudeville master. Go and enjoy The Man in Two Pieces; take a step back to the vaudevillian days, where the truth doesn’t matter as long as the story is a good one.
The Man in Two Pieces by Gerard Adlum starring Stephen Brennan and Gerard Adlum.
7 April – 18 April 2015 at Theatre Upstairs, Dublin.
Presented by Fast Intent. Directed by Sarah Finlay.