Tuesday, June 14, 2022


REVIEW: Callan’s Kicks at Theatre Royal


OLIVER Callan bounces onto the Theatre Royal stage with the delight of a child who’s just discovered Christmas has come early. “Isn’t it just great to be back?” he beams “and to a full audience, too?” Despite the gaps in the seating, the house has been sold out for nearly two years and the audience choose to hold onto their tickets rather than seek refunds.

It’s a measure of Callan’s popularity and his show is a potpourri of all his most popular characters as heard on radio and TV. And he just loves the Déise – despite all our failings in the hurling dept. “You need a visa to get in here,” says he, “that’s to keep the Kilkenny crowd out –  although they seem to have all the jobs. Plámás will get you anywhere,” boasts the comic with the cherub’s face who is easy to like. His routines are very much tongue-in-cheek as he moves easily through an array of his favourite characters.


‘Callan is at his best when he’s barbing on politicians in their own unique way and voice and his audience love him for it’


Callan’s gift is his accuracy of observation and his ability to exaggerate the qualities or flaws he recognises in his targets. Inoffensive “Fianna Fáil’s last Taoiseach” Mícheál wibble-dibble-dibble Martin “going-forward” running up to the podium with his arms flapping-like-a-seal-in-winter opens his show to great applause. He’s got Martin’s mannerism dead right – sleepy eyes that squint upwards in the sunshine, hand gestures that move in small circles with fingers that open wide like a bunch of bananas, Condescending Leo’s rounded and plumy vowels are captured in rich flow, sounding off about his humility and meeting his favourite working-class people full stop who seem to hail from his mammy’s place “don’t-ye-know-now” in Dungarvan. Hey… it’s hard to be poor but have some sympathy for well-off rich kids too.

Paschal O’Donoghue’s tinky-winky tellytubby frame with his pose-by-smile and his slow exaggerated delivery in his teachery sit-up-big-and-listen-to-me-now tone is clearly a favourite of Callan’s audience. He’s got Mary Lou’s rasping, uncompromising Dublineese dead on as she muses about having a night with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy… “what a tee-shirt… what a ride… and if it’s weapons he’s looking for than he need look no further than us”.

The Healy-Raes are also at Callan’s races and their in-yer-face gombeenisms are a godsend to impersonators – although anyone who thinks the Healy-Rae flat-cap dynasty is founded on stupidity should think twice. There’s no better interviewee to get his point across than Michael Healy-Rae and their political set-up is the envy of all politicians. Blustering Boris gets an outing – all flounce and bounce and babble as he swallows his consonants and we’re also reminded that every time poor Arlene Foster smiles, someone has died.

A Rose of Tralee contest, introduced by Dááááthííi Wó-hó-hó Sééé with unsuspecting audience victims is a welcome diversion from the one-voice show. The party pieces are a hoot and Bridie the Orange Rose with the Ulster Hall sash proves a big hit. Dáááithííí would have included a Sinn Féin Rose but all the data pre 1999 has been expunged from Mary Lou’s website!

The characters continue to come… Francis Brennan, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, Bertie Ahern, David Norris and President Michael Deeeeee. Callan’s final kick included a round the island tour of accents beginning in Donegal North and finally circling to land on Sligo. It’s clever but too predictable to kick the show to touch. When Oliver returns for a final curtain-call of voices a far better send-off is assured.

Callan is at his best when he’s barbing on politicians in their own unique way and voice and his audience love him for it. A good night on the Mall.

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By Pat McEvoy, Arts Correspondent
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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