When we first see Xnthony – a singer wearing beige but upright like a model, tapering a picture of grace from heel to elbow – he is as curved as an ampersand. It’s possible that creator Anthony Keigher has found an ideal character note for the ordinary & the extraordinary.
In this musical memoir Xnthony, a queer performer living extravagantly in London, revisits Anthony: a younger version of himself left dejected in Roscommon.
The result is quite unlike past productions by Xnthony and X+Co. In DOUZE, for instance, there were sugary tunes pushing for a place in the Eurovision. With dancer Tiffany Murphy, athletic and grotesque displays were made out of celebrity obsession in The Power of WOW. But here, under David Doyle’s soft lighting, the usual dazzle is suspended as if to allow for something more solemn.
From a stretch of bog that resembles an abstract painting in James Doyle’s beautiful design, there are songs about farm animals, island retreats and mystical birds of prey. A deep sense of melancholy lines the edges of Xnthony’s baritone, pleading like Ian Curtis until enough is enough. (“You missed out on knowing me,” he lashes at his hometown, in the most uptempo song).
When he shares, with flat disapproval, a local phrase: “Don’t tell a man your business”, the production opens up secrets of shame in a country town where people can’t afford to be out. We follow a child living a carefree youth until they come under suspicion, hoping that making their Holy Confirmation will protect them.
Sally Ó Dúnlaing’s inventive music may help chart this emotional territory with piano arrangements, upbeat rhythms and haunting choirs, but instrumental accompaniment is nicely muted for the most affecting melody, where a child is asked a question he isn’t ready to answer.
Here, Xnthony’s delivery is quite touching, though the production doesn’t hit as high an emotional note as it steers towards the end. There’s nothing visceral, for instance, when Roscommon – the only county voting no in a marriage equality referendum – comes under attack.
That might have made a stunning realisation about his home more powerful, and even consoling. Yet, there’s no denying the Wizard of Oz-style ending when, in a celebratory recreation of his Confirmation Day, Xnthony’s magic has clearly been within him all along. The production mightn’t go the full distance, but it rings with the clarifying song of where you come from.
Confirmation is on until 22 September 2018 at The Lir Academy, Dublin. Click here for more details.