Locating an audience’s funny bone – and learning how to jiggle it – is a task which takes some comics years to get right, but Mark Doherty, former comedian and writer of Trad, is gifted with a kind of GPS for these things that means he never misses.
From start to finish, this bittersweet production brings forth waves of laughter, and Doherty’s comedy background means that no matter how heart-rending it gets you don’t have to wait long to find yourself chuckling again.
Trad is a rather surreal concoction, charting what happens when the very old Thomas and his even more decrepit ‘Da’ journey across the Irish countryside to find the son Thomas fathered years ago in an intoxicated fumble.
A five star hit at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, this play is an engrossing, hysterical picaresque. Think Father Ted meets Waiting for Godot and you can imagine the kind of Irish stereotypes, self mockery and jingoism peppering this play as well as the tragic-comic nature of the two main protagonists.
The on-stage chemistry between Peter Gowen’s Thomas and Frankie McCafferty’s Da, is second to none. Looking like Vladimir and Estragon in their tattered suits the pair banter and bicker, with Da frequently taking the lead in England-bashing and regaling his son with well worn, quasi folkloric tales from his youth.
Aged and addled, Thomas only has one arm, while his Da has a wooden leg. Apart they would be forlorn, but together they are a riotous double act. It is their physical and emotional co-dependency that makes Da’s dignified suicide at the end of the play so affecting, and recasts their journey as a protracted swan-song, a long good bye and a means of passing on tales, tradition and the meaning of family.
Also sharing the stage with this gently comic couple is the phenomenal David Pearse, who gives two hugely entertaining performances as the doddery, totally bonkers Sal and then as the drunk raconteur Father Rice. Watching all three of them you witness an almost holy trinity of craft, comedic timing and effortless delivery. The casting really is impeccable, which coupled with the deft direction of Mikel Murfi makes for a piece of theatre that succeeds on numerous levels.
Touching and sentimental yet rip roaringly funny, Trad is a real gem that will pull at your heart strings not to mention tickle the aforementioned funny bone.