Review by Kate Gaul
Award winning Fishamble’s “King”, by writer and actor Pat Kinevane, tells the story of middle-aged Luther, a man from Cork named in honour of his Granny Bee Baw’s hero - Martin Luther King. Luther only leaves his spare apartment for essential journeys, and to perform as an Elvis impersonator. He doesn’t like people but is Ok if he is in disguise. The play explores prejudice, privilege, and resilience, as Luther struggles to live a full life.
Pat Kinevane is one of Ireland’s theatrical sons and for lovers of Irish drama, “King” is a charmer. Director, Jim Culleton, assists in bringing this man living on the fringes of society who is falling through its cracks. A lonely man, a complicated family history, overwhelming personal and political oppression, death ever present, and the desire to keep talking to stave off the loneliness – all rich ingredients of a usual Irish play! Although the chatting is about incidents from the past the stakes are high as Luther prepares for a wedding gig where he will impersonate Elvis as a warmup to the karaoke, thanks to bride Indira, his local pharmacist. He’s hoping for a date with Flossy. A small inconsistency for someone who doesn’t like being around people. There are stories of his grandmother Bee Baw, the teacher Savage, his dead mother, and his father Pawdy who is easing towards death in a care home, and who Luther visits daily.
On the almost bare stage small tasks are completed as the stories flow. Clothes are ironed, a floor is washed. There is a tango element to the action as Luther has a love of dance as did his parents. It represents his passion and his isolation. There are mysterious voiceovers giving a dark edge to the action telling Luther of Irish race-memory trauma and some instructions on tango. The movement sequences are a bit of an ask and the monologue is not improved by the impact of the solo dancing. But the text is gorgeous and carries the weight of the production with real humour and pathos. Indira leaves messages on the unanswered land line so we have a sense of an outside world to compliment Luther’s descriptions. She’s foul mouthed and very human. This is where “King” excels.
Kinevane is a likeable presence and astute performer. This is an enjoyable piece and definitely one for the lovers of Irish theatre.