Arsehammers/Bonfire Night

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

four stars

IRISH company CallBack Theatre surely know how to add some salty humour and mordant bite to a lunchtime’s Play, Pie and Pint. With Arsehammers – the first of two slyly funny yet innately touching monologues by Claire Dowie – we’re privy to the thought processes of a nine-year-old boy who’s wondering why his parents argue about his Grandad’s future, and why Grandad keeps suddenly vanishing from their house. The lad’s own answer: Arsehammers! It takes a scene or two for our suspicions to be confirmed – the word is his approximation of Alzheimers, and the Grandad he adores is increasingly disappearing into its domain. Cora Fenton is, from base-ball cap to trainers, totally persuasive as a breezy, live-wire lad. Ready to imagine super-hero adventures when Grandad goes AWOL – but not quite ready for the truths and realities that come with growing up.

At first, middle-aged Claire’s excitement over bonfire night speaks of respite from being her father’s sole carer. But Dowie’s second monologue, also deftly directed by John Sheehy, harbours some hilariously black twists that Fenton springs on us with consummate comic timing. Claire, dowdy on the outside but deadly on the inside, has seen her independence, her hopes of future happiness all shrivel to nought because a drunk driver killed her mother. He wasn’t even jailed...

There is palpable anguish, as well as anger, in both the writing and Fenton’s performance here. Hurt and pain that isn’t amusing, even if the wickedly warped thinking that – come whizz-bang Bonfire Nights – sees Claire’s finger on the trigger simply rockets sky-high with witty malevolence. You know you can’t condone her actions, but Fenton’s twinkling affability lures you, laughing, onto Claire’s side – and anyway, there are two bullets left in that gun she carries.

Sponsored by Heineken