Theatre review: Jericho, Underbelly Cowgate

Jericho's message is mind-expanding. Picture: Contributed
Jericho's message is mind-expanding. Picture: Contributed
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Around midway through this show by Irish company Malaprop – or a little over midway, as we discover – it appears as though we may be in the presence of a really special piece of theatre that addresses the issues of the age with outstanding humour and genuine invention.

Jericho, Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61) ****

Devised by the company with writer Dylan Coburg Gray, it focuses on Maeve O’Mahony’s solo(ish) performance as a young journalist who is writing a piece on professional wrestling. Yet as she researches her way through the internet, she can’t help but be sucked into the vortex of concern and outrage around the digital realm, where “to look away is obscene, but to say something is even more obscene”.

Bounding onstage to motivational music as though she were a wrestler herself, and slipping between her journalistic and theatrical personae, O’Mahony’s character presents a flurry of entertainingly visual insight. She wrestles her way past her hulking onstage technical operator, heavy-breathing in a leather mask and representing the full weight of online viciousness; explains the fantasy, consumer-friendly violence of the WWE wrestling brand by invoking Roland Barthes, and comparing the company’s founder Vince McMahon to a modern day Martin Luther. She accurately navigates the blurred border between news and entertainment, and the fact that our need for narrative coerces us to pretend the future is mapped, for better or worse.

It’s gripping, entertaining and mind-expanding in its message – but like a flash, 15 minutes before its advertised running time of an hour, the show is over with a slice of concluding monologue that feels like it’s just getting going. It appears as though Malaprop have devised a proper state-of-the-planet show, and committed it to the stage with the full ending still to be written. Of course, this may not be the case, but either way it’s hard not to feel a twinge of disappointment at a show which crackles with power and potential for 45 minutes – yet still, despite the finale, it manages to contain so much more than most other shows on the Fringe will present.

• Until 26 August, 1:10pm