Winner of the best newcomer award at last year’s Fringe, Ciarán Dowd’s swashbuckling creation Don Rodolfo remains an undemanding, swaggeringly enjoyable pastiche of the romance and legend of Zorro.
Comedy review: Ciarán Dowd: Padre Rodolfo, Pleasance Courtyard * * * *
A cynic might imagine that a sequel is bound to follows the movie template of diminishing returns. But that would be to overlook the sheer number and variation of gags in the script and Dowd’s outsize, roistering performance. Moreover, by having Rodolfo forsake wine, women and swordplay to become a priest, he’s exploiting the abundant comic possibilities that Catholicism’s iconography and supernatural spookiness affords.
Unquestionably, the agonies of celibacy are as ripe for send-up as bed-hopping. And having imagined that he’d sated his carnal appetites, Rodolfo applies his manly vigour to God’s work, earning him the Pope’s commission for special missions.
Trained by Sister Sandra Margarita Placenta, the pair start at loggerheads but the fire of attraction begins to smoulder. Aided by his forgetful, weedily-voiced owl familiar, they battle the Devil’s minions as they move towards a confrontation with El Diablo himself.
Notwithstanding nods to films like The Exorcist and Clash of the Titans, and in full-throated song to Man of La Mancha, Padre Rodolfo is a more straightforward narrative than his predecessor. And the finale is surprisingly and disappointingly similar.
But the ebullient Dowd was born to play the character, his cocksure, cod-Castilian grandiloquence occasionally veering into his own regular Irish tones in moments of high, sweaty drama. Rarely does he miss an opportunity to top a line with another daft gag but his quality control remains impressively high.
One hopes that there’s plenty more life and lust in the Rodolfo saga yet.
Until 25 August.