“Hello. Thanks for calling <big multinational you have heard of>. You are through to Dave in Dublin. Can I take your account number please?”
Earlier in my life, that was my script. I said those words thousands of times; but I didn’t have to say them while dealing with the grief, loss and confusion that follows the death of a sibling.
Shortly after the sudden demise of his younger brother, Malachy has been asked to give a talk to his fellow call centre employees. He has just turned 25 and he shares some of the lessons he has learnt along the way to this ripe old age.
Malachy isn’t necessarily the nicest person in the world and certainly not the most self-aware, but we see that this isn’t intentional. He does not mean badly; he is at times lost to his own anxieties. He’s just young and yet to really come to terms with his life. Malachy’s talk is based around 25 milestones, and these cover the loss of his brother, his adventures with his best friend Pauline and his love life (or lack of love life as the case may be!).
Everything is Grand, and I’m Completely Okay is written and performed by Conor Burke, who uses Malachy’s talk as his framing device. Combined with an undeniable stage presence, this works to great effect in the intimate space of The Hope Theatre. Armed with just a microphone, Burke uses us – his audience – to represent Malachy’s colleagues. Standing behind the mic, he turns constantly to look at and talk directly to each member of the audience, making it feel personal. This framing device also allows for the occasional breaking of the fourth wall, which works well, particularly when Malachy explains exposition to his audience.
Malachy has had to move back into his parents’ family home. This is not uncommon in Ireland these days, with young – and not so young – adults either still living at home, or forced to move back in with their parents. The housing crisis is rarely far from the Irish headlines. I mention this because in many plays it would be presented as a cheap gag but here it is not played for laughs or something to be embarrassed about: it is the situation for a lot of Irish people.
My one piece of, I hope, constructive criticism would be that the first ten minutes or so feel almost like a stand-up set, rather than a play. A slight tweak to emphasise earlier on that this is Malachy presenting to his colleagues might be worth considering.
On the whole, this was an enjoyable evening, with a strong performance and a lot of laughs throughout. I was particularly impressed with how Burke both balances and shifts between comedy and serious issues in script and performance, as he reflects on his life, anxieties and hope for the future.
Written by: Conor Burke
Directed by: Lesley Conroy
Light and sound design by Aidan Cooney
Produced by: Madison Parker
Originally developed with the aid of Dublin Fringe Festival
Everything is Grand and I’m Completely Okay is on at The Hope Theatre for one more performance (7 March). We recommend checking the show’s Twitter account for announcements of future performances.