By Michael Harding. Focus Theatre until 31 May.
Following its success at last year's Fringe Festival, Michael Harding's one-man show based on the writings and personality of Jonathan Swift, returns to the Dublin stage in this production from the Focus Theatre. A piece that sets out to capture the time and place of its subject is enlivened by a wickedly funny and incisive script, together with Harding's portrayal of Dr Swift and the other characters we meet.
The others in question are guests that Swift has invited around to his home for a dinner party. They comprise of a rather obese Bishop, a smart-alec Dublin journalist, a society lady and her debutante niece. Needless to say, things don’t go according to plan as the conversation quickly turns to matters of etiquette and one’s position in society.
Such mutterings do not sit easy with our gruff host, making him feel uneasy, but also quick with the tongue. What follows is a series of put downs against those dining at his table. His mocking is delivered with great relish and his depiction of the slobbering, self-absorbed Bishop invoked much laughter from the audience. As a piece of satire it works well, striking at the heart of those who have perceived notions about themselves.
While all the lampooning is going on, Swift's old friend, the harpist, Turlough O’Carolan makes a surprise visit. The musician’s personality is far removed from the assembled diners and offers Swift some respite. Their relationship is unusual as it represents a clash of cultures between the Dublin man and the 'culchie'. O'Carolan too can shoot from the hip and, while he may lack the style of his friend, their exchanges offer an eccentric view of the world, laced with many comic moments.
Michael Harding's ability to assume many characters and his penchant for mimicry is well showcased in 'Talking Through his Hat'. His clever use of the space, aided by Cabrini Cahill's astute direction make for an enjoyable show, which, at an hour long doesn't outstay its welcome.
James McMahonMichael Harding's one-man show based on the writings & personality of Jonathan Swift is an enjoyable offering, presented by Focus Theatre. Swift exudes an uneasy demeanour, as the dinner party he has thrown isn't going exactly to plan. Serious matters of etiquette and one's position in society are discussed - the host is not impressed by such mutterings. The relationship between Swift and the musician Turlough O'Carolan is also alluded to in a show where Harding displays with great ease his ability to assume many personalities and accents.