As part of a series commissioned by the Dublin Fringe and the Abbey Theatre called Speak Softly, Go Far, three artists designed audio shows for the festival including Irish comedian and storyteller, Hannah Mamalis. Three years ago, I reviewed a show by Mamalis at the Edinburgh Fringe. Calling her work “reminiscent of the storytelling of Daniel Kitson,” I have been eager to get a second look.
Like Kitson, Mamalis’s work centers around ordinary people who might otherwise go unnoticed. But her writing is far more surreal than Kitson’s and its what makes her storytelling indelible and enticing. The familiar jolts into the strange with a simple twist of phrase. She makes me laugh with these unexpected juxtapositions.
One minute we are meeting Ben, then we find out “His head is in a hole.” As we are told we are floating in space, Mamalis reminds us that “In space, no one can hear you shit yourself.” An unexpected truth.
This easygoing and inventive 24-minute show quickly establishes some distinct characters. Hannah is “a disembodied voice” telling a story about her ten-year-old self and a theft she committed at a wedding. Lola is a small child who is writing a book on fish. She is staying up all night with her fish Fletcher (Fletcher #8 to be specific) to make sure he doesn’t kill himself. The aforementioned Ben has his head in a hole because he set about to dig up a childhood time capsule he buried long ago with his friend Rachel. His relationship with Rachel, now his girlfriend, needs saving. He’s decided this is the path to fixing their problems and his desperation is palpable. Marie, a woman whose dog has died, is trying to move on. We too are characters on this journey.
Kevin Gleeson’s sound design conjures Ben’s frantic digging in the dirt, Lola’s parents’ muffled conversations in the next room, and a melancholy French horn that is frequently played by someone near Marie’s house.
There’s no forced intersection of the narratives. Death, loss, grief, and relationships come into play throughout, so the stories overlap thematically.
With these stories, Mamalis wants us to shift our perspective. Do not get too comfortable with what you think things are. Reconsider how you look at them. Our view of the world can change in an instant and that discovery is one of the delights and challenges of being alive.