Thursday, 4 April 2002

The Fall of the Roman Umpire, April 4, 2002

By Dennis Coard

 La Mama April 4 to 14, 2002

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

People's personal histories are endlessly fascinating. Dennis Coard has written his life into a charming and cheeky one hour, one-man show.

Coard's play, The Fall of the Roman Umpire, is a self-narrated journey from his emigration from Ireland to Australia with his family as a child.

The theatre space is demystified at the beginning. He arrives, tumbling down the stairs at La Mama, to turn the stage lights on himself, apologising for being a one-man show.

He plays himself as a pubescent Irish child, pants rolled up to his knees. "Sorry about the legs," he quips. "They run in the family."

. Coard is a consummate comic performer. His characters are delightful and believable and his Irish accent is, of course, flawless.

The family comprises his Da, Joe, his Ma, Thelma, Grandpa and three brothers

Joe is an unreliable, naughty Irishman who treats his children as a captive audience for his jokes and antics. He taught them slapstick at an early age, which explains Coard's own comic skill.

Coard portrays his engaging father pretending to be a fictitious aunty who entertains the boys with hilariously silly magic tricks. 

While father believed in light entertainment to control the boys, mother was less forgiving and more authoritarian.

The transitions between mother, father aunty and grandfather are smooth, making the characters all the more compelling.

The latter part of the show is about the family's time in Adelaide. One very slick and funny scene is performed in mime.

It is a whip through twenty years of Coard's life during which he worked for Telecom, drank too much, had a couple of children and married and divorced twice.

His decision to audition for acting school in Melbourne at the age of 35 was a success. He shows us his audition pieces: an edited Macbeth speech and a poignant monologue by an old digger.

Coard's audition served him well. After his studies at the Victorian College of the Arts, he became a regular on Home and Away. There is life after Telecom - and Ireland.

By Kate Herbert

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