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Fionntan Larney has been nominated for the 2019 Stewart Parker Trust Award for Beat. After a sell-out run with positive reviews at the Dublin Fringe Festival last year, Beat got a reprieve this May in Trinity College Dublin’s Samuel Beckett Theatre and Sarah Cullen (Co-Editor of the Film section here at Headstuff) takes a look back at that production and highlights some of the reasons why Larney has gained so much well deserved attention.
The bare stage adorned by white light lending it the hint of a stadium tour. Tickets were scarce on the ground once again as Lir Academy alumnus, Fionntán Larney, brought his innovative rap musical home to packed crowds.
Tickets were scarce on the
ground once again as Lir Academy alumnus, Fionntán Larney, brought his innovative rap
musical home to packed crowds.
Directed by Dominic O’Brien, Beat centres around the quest undertaken by two best friends (Fionntán Larney and Harry Higgins) for oblivion found in the partying and intoxication of Dublin’s nightlife. Larney’s party animal looks for an end to the mundanity of day-to-day living. Higgins’ wounded lover seeks a way to forget a painful breakup.
Beat explores the heady atmosphere of drugs and toxic masculinity. These act as a barrier to much-needed human interaction, and particularly homosocial connection. Along the way, Martha Breen performs the parts of the many colourful characters they encounter along the way.
As well as coming up with the concept for Beat, Larney also served as music composer along with team Morgan Beausang and Isaac Jones. Performing the musical through the medium of rap ads considerable nuance to the endeavour. The genre has at times been associated with sexism and homophobia. But, it can also be used as a transformative tool for addressing the problems of toxic masculinity. Indeed, throughout Beat, rap is used by its performers to illustrate both bravado and vulnerability.
The audience are an important mediating point through which the characters broadcast their feelings. This spans from Larney’s character’s swaggering invitation that anyone who disagrees with him, or in other words, is “sceptical,” to “suck on my testicle,” to Higgins’ character’s inability to tell his best mate his feelings, instead telling the audience what he “wanted to say.” Beat explores the possibilities and limitations of the rap genre. It also explores what is permitted to say and what is taboo within the male-dominated culture of the contemporary Dublin party scene.
The play’s genius lies in the bait-and-switch at the centre of its narrative. This allows Larney to explore the paper-thin barrier that exists between the Good Guy and the Nice Guy. It’s a lot easier, we learn, to be woke when your old homophobic school bully is around. In his absence, you might just show yourself up as the skeevy, self-proclaimed feminist preying on women’s vulnerabilities. In particular, an extremely impressive and well-observed take- down of an attempted white knighting challenges the audience to reconsider the same actions from a different point of view.
Indeed, Beat may be something of a wake-up call to those, who believe that feminism has been ‘solved’ now that the 8th has been repealed. Furthermore, it was an inspired decision to have Breen embody the character with the most outrageous homophobic and sexist language. In the hands of an extremely able female performer, the horrendous “locker-room talk” is demonstrated to be an artifice. This is a show of dominance and desperation, in a way a male performance might not signal.
Larney and team have already demonstrated a strong degree of imagination and creativity. All the more impressive in what was, for many, their first professional gig. Hopefully we will see plenty more from them soon. We will also wish Fionntan Larney when it comes to the Stewart Parker Trust Award.
The Stewart Parker Trust was set up in honour of Stewart Parker and honours and celebrates and encourages new Irish writing (North and South). The full list of nominees for the 2019 Stewart Parker Trust Award award are:
Jodi Gray – Peep
Fionntán Larney – beat.
Sonya Kelly – Furniture
Erica Murray – The Cat’s Mother
John O’ Donovan – If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You