Theatre review: Vernon God Little, Town Hall Galway

****

Eleven years after it won the Booker Prize, DBC Pierre’s popular novel gets a welcome stage adaptation by Galway company Decadent. Using Tanya Ronder’s script for the Young Vic’s own very successful adaptation, the production distils all the mordant black humour of Pierre’s incendiary satire while at the same time teasing out a wonderful pathos.

The show is distinguished by a talented and charismatic cast and is bolstered, too, by the presence of a wonderful three-piece band — The Lifebuoys — who play a set of pining country standards throughout, evoking the Texan scrub town in which the story takes place.

The narrative centres on 15-year-old Vernon Little (Jarlath Tivnan), a modern-day Huck Finn who finds himself at the eye of a media-storm following a high-school shooting in which he is unfairly implicated.

A heartbreaking figure, Vernon is a squirming, bottled up ball of rage and confusion, and he is played with tremendous delicacy by Tivnan, who finds both the spirit and the sadness that engulfs the character.

In his midst are a cacophony of vivid characters, including Vernon’s sad-eyed mother (Kate Murray), who lives in a deep denial of her peripheral existence, and an imposter news reporter (Little John Nee) who exploits Vernon’s trust.

Director Andrew Flynn paces the show expertly, particularly in the first act where a bright array of characters emerge from the chorus of actors onstage and very vividly come to life. The second act is no less absorbing but the pacing does suffer slightly from the brisk episodic nature of the scenes as Vernon first hightails it to Mexico before eventually finding himself on trial and facing the death sentence in a reality TV penitentiary.

This satire of American culture is perhaps a little broad, as it was in Pierre’s novel, but the idiomatic Texan dialogue and the cast’s comic delivery is simply hilarious. All told, it’s great craic, but — more impressive still — it’s full of heart.

Touring nationwide, including dates at The Everyman, Cork, September 21– 26; Siamsa Tire, Tralee, September 30; Glor, Ennis, October 1


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