Foley’s Eamonn is a young man under pressure. As manager of a menswear store he’s pitted against daily routines of jockeying for authority (“Retail separates boys from the men / We only do kids up to size ten”) and keeping an eye on shoplifters. A six-day working week has its demands; his daughter is at home without him. In search of relief from a work-life imbalance, he arrives at karaoke through orientalism, mindfulness as modelled by the “Japs” and Mr. Miyagi. Political correctness, bravely, is in short supply.
There’s no questioning the moxie of Ill-Advised’s first home-grown musical (they previously sought inspiration from Broadway). Producers Andy Carberry and Sarah-Jane Williams have wisely signed up personnel from Malaprop, the makers of last year’s excellent Love +. Under Claire O’Reilly’s neat direction, the action is nicely focused within John Gunning’s footlights and Molly O’Cathain’s shop-floor set. The confines of Eamonn’s life are also felt in Foley’s score: the rhythmic clicks of hangers on rails, psychedelic synths and the soft new age utterances of Andrew Bennett as the hero’s inner voice, spouting philosophies such as “Something is moving. It’s like a train leaving you behind”.
You could read that as counsel for the overworked employee missing out on his personal life, or for the person with an old world-view becoming dated. Foley, brilliantly, does both. “You’re my daughter” he sings sweetly, “and I’ll love you even if you turn out to be a bitch”. It’s the closest this satire edges towards affection. Songs hop along with several anti-immigrant, anti-Traveller and homophobic slurs, and some are even enshrined in a number with the refrain “It’s just a bitta craic”. The irony isn’t lost on Foley’s choice of musical style: rap, which is far from native.
But before Generation Snowflake gets their backs up, this musical airing of prejudicial remarks is invested in getting at their source. Foley’s performance is underscored by the swagger of a masculinity that’s ruthless in its expectations of labour and dismissal of minorities. That makes a shrewd exploration of identity politics in modern Ireland, one that could inspire a new fashion of understanding.
Eamonn [From Menswear] is on until 6th August 2016. Click here for more details.