The Irish premiere of this curious, entertaining, and thought-provoking play by Cork-born writer, Lynda Radley, takes a while to gain momentum.
But, in a way, this is appropriate, as the play is about a bunch of world-weary so-called freaks who are on their last legs, as members of Riley’s travelling Odditorium. The freaks comprise conjoined twins, the world’s fattest man, a mermaid, a bearded, armless lady and a hermaphrodite.
In this timeless play, astutely directed by Tom Creed, issues about bodily autonomy are raised, as the desperate and ruthless Riley demands that the cast of his tawdry show reinvents itself — a very contemporary theme, in an age of makeovers and competitive cosmetic surgery.
As the ringmaster informs his players, who have pitched up in some nameless town, they were “once seen as God’s marvels, not God’s mistakes.” No longer able to attract an audience, Riley speaks of offering something “authentic” to audiences. But he is blind to the very essence of his cast. He just sees them as playthings to be marketed to prurient audiences.
Seeking change involves the surgeon’s scalpel in some cases. Is Riley that unscrupulous? Go and see how far a financially-strapped showbiz boss pushes his selfish agenda.
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