A homeless man emerges from a threadbare blanket on a Dublin street and says: "If anybody asks, I'm not here." Not that anybody will ask. The homeless man, a depressive alcoholic, is numbered among those forgotten people who live in the shadows of any big city.
This is the world that performer and writer Pat Kinevane creates in his one-man show Silent, which is heading to Fringe World next week.
Kinevane plays Tino McGoldrig, the middle-aged man whose life has descended to the streets as depression takes hold and the past becomes a series of bitter memories.
Using his blanket as a key prop, Tino tells his life story to the audience in movement, dance and musical soundscapes. The blanket, when folded, becomes his first love or the means to create the other significant features of his former life.
Tino grew up, it transpires, with a fondness for the films of silent movie star Rudolph Valentino - hence the nickname Tino.
His past is enacted in the manner of a silent movie starring Valentino, his movement and facial expressions eerily reminiscent of the enigmatic Hollywood star.
We learn about Tino's gay brother persecuted for his sexuality, his unsympathetic mother, his brief marriage and his current attempt to engage with Dublin's inadequate mental-health services while struggling to maintain his sanity.
It wouldn't be an Irish play, of course, without a sense of irony, bleak unsentimental wit and the joy of language - combined with those feckless characters that seem to have inhabited the Irish theatre tradition from J.M. Synge to Beckett and more modern writers such as Martin McDonagh, Brian Friel and Enda Walsh.
Silent is being brought to Australia by Fishamble, a Dublin theatre company dedicated to producing new Irish writing. The theatre is based on a Dublin street near the famous Fishamble Street, where fish mongers set up their "shambles" or market stalls.
But Fishamble Street once housed a music hall that became famous as the venue for the first performance of Handel's Messiah in 1742. All that remains of the music hall these days is the door.
"Fishamble is a very famous street in connection with theatre, which is why we named the company," says artistic director Jim Culleton, who is in Australia as the director of Silent.
Silent is the second solo performance piece by Kinevane, who also created Forgotten, the story of four elderly people in aged care.
Kinevane, who comes from County Cork, has been writing and acting for 21 years and has written three full-length plays as well as his solo shows, all of them produced by Fishamble Theatre Company.
"After he had written Forgotten, Pat approached me about two-and-a-half years ago with the idea to write another piece for himself - this time about a homeless man," says Culleton.
"We immediately commissioned the work, and it's gone on to win awards at the Edinburgh Fringe and the Brighton theatre festival, as well as playing off-Broadway in New York, LA and other parts of the world."
"Pat conjures up the streets of Dublin in Silent, but it could be any street where people are trying to survive.
"The humour of the character is part of his defence against adversity. Tino tells the story of his own struggles with black, dark humour. Wasn't it Beckett who talked about laughter astride the grave? He also escapes into the world of silent film through his obsession with Rudoph Valentino. It really is a heartbreaking piece of theatre."
The Guardian theatre critic described Kinevane's creation thus: "Accompanied by lush strings and voice-overs, his interior world is portrayed as a clamour of voices, churning up guilty memories . . . what in other hands might be relentlessly grim material is saved by Tino's mocking black humour. Keeping self-pity at bay, his wit skewers those around him."
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