Dinner first: we booked The Old Quarter, a modern Asian place on Dixon Street. They specialise in Vietnamese food; they also specialise in serving you quickly and turning over tables. We made a rookie mistake of ordering our drinks and food at the same time, and the food started arriving before our cocktails were ready! Next time, we’ll order cocktails and not do the food until they’ve arrived. All of it was delicious, however, and we even had time for a dessert.
It’s just up the road from St James Theatre, so in a matter of moments we were in the foyer with time on our hands. On this occasion we had eschewed the cheap seats and booked into the dress circle (there’s also a grand circle), and settled in for Dara to begin.
When Dara Ó Briain does stand-up, he doesn’t have anything on the stage, except a stand with some water on it. This, we found out later, has its drawbacks. Much of his show is stream of consciousness, and he disappears off on to wild tangents before dragging himself back to the story he was telling. He also did some audience interaction, meeting people in the front row and basically taking the piss out of their jobs (there was a hypnotherapist, an animal experimenter, and a civil servant, amongst others).
Anyway, he’s pleased to be back in Wellingon, if only because the Cable Car is working now. On his first visit in 2019 it was out of action, being repaired. “But don’t worry, there’s a replacement bus service”, said the attendant. Dara then explains “I don’t have a meeting at the top of the Cable Car that I have to get to, I just wanted a go on the Cable Car.” But now he’s happy.
The second half of the show takes a different tack. After first regaling us about the joys of visiting a theme park, with rollercoasters and the like, mere days after undergoing knee surgery, he realised he’d missed out a bit of his show. He ran off stage to collect his exercise book, and started leafing through it, eventually pulling out a swathe of papers. He then proceeded, for around half an hour, to give us a harrowing tale of the privations suffered under Irish law, by anyone who was adopted. And why they were adopted. This all came from having watched a film called Philomena, which he heartily recommends, as do I. Because (spoiler alert), it turns out Dara is adopted, and he detailed the Kafkaesque Irish bureaucracy involved in getting information about the woman who “gave you up” for adoption. Like many Irish phrases, “giving up for adoption” is a euphemism that disguises the horrendous truth (cf. “The Troubles”) that these women had their babies taken from them forcibly, and often sold to Americans. Yes, sold. This was in the latter part of the 20th century. It’s a very moving story, and fortunately one with a happy ending, which is not the usual outcome.
But it’s all a bit of a downer. This is supposed to be a comedy show! So Dara then brings us back with an upbeat, uplifting story about an audience member in Canada, to cheer us all up! And then he leaves the stage, before coming back for an inevitable encore about how he was asked for a seven-minute segment to trail his show, and how this was impossible, because it takes him an hour just to say “hello”.