Spud! Poster: Lyric Theatre, Belfast
Conleth Hill's Spud! may well be one of those plays where the setting and story, present though they are, aren't that relevant. It's a show where the general pleasures extend from the comedy that co-writers and stars Kevin McAleer and Conor Grimes, as a slobby Gerry Adams lookalike and a Dickensian Niles Crane, respectively, pen and act. It's about how the two of them bounce off one another and find out how, to borrow the overused phrase for brotherly bonding, they're not really all that different.
While the humour of Spud! isn't all that inventive, it is certainly verbally and physically versatile. McAleer's distinct eyebrows (I have to thank Tara Lynne O'Neill, currently Shirley Valentine, for pointing them out to me) and Grimes' calmly, classy clowning tie in with zingers like "I eat the furniture!... At least I don't eat the scenery", "He passed on Saturday Night… Fever", "I've never eaten a horse… No. Neigh. Never" and "Maurice Minor had a breakdown". It is, for want of a better word, a gas. (And yes, some is passed at some point.)
For me, Spud! is also smart in that it examines how cleverness can, or can't, be feigned for the purpose of maintaining sanity and keeping up appearances. It's also about - and this is not surprising, given the title - food. Food for thought. Food as something to talk about, food as something to talk to (yes), and food as something to eat. A play where someone says, "I've bigger fish to fry" to a hungry guy, and his mouth waters. Goes without saying, this is a Spud! you like.
Spud! ran at Belfast's Lyric Theatre from August 31 until September 14.