By Mark O’Rowe
Directed by Greg Carroll
With Vincent Miller and David Whiteley
Set by Greg Carroll
Lighting by Dans Sheehan
Howie The Rookie (October 2 – October 27, 2003) – Chris Boyd, Herald Sun 09-Oct-02
This play puts the steel cap into kick-arse. It’s Dublin’s answer to Trainspotting.
As you’d expect from the Irish, a humble pint – well, several dozen of them – replaces the syringe.
And the sad-bastard tragedy is never less than pants-wettingly funny. If most theatre is for pussycats, this play is for panthers.
A feud begins involving a burning mattress.
The Rookie (“breaker of hearts and hymens”) left behind an infestation of scabies when he slept on Ollie’s mat, and fellow mate Peaches has since contracted them.
The Howie (Vincent Miller) is conscripted to help Peaches exact brutal revenge. But, within 48 hours, The Howie changes sides and all hell breaks loose.
Mark O’Rowe’s dialogue floats like a butterfly and kicks like a buffalo. He gives actors space in which to be immense, to dazzle. And Miller and David Whiteley seize those opportunities in Red Stitch’s best show yet, and one of the very best shows of the year.
Just when we thought we had the company pinned down, it invites Greg Carroll to direct – an inspired decision.
Howie the Rookie is a reminder of what theatre should be: vivid, thrilling and dramatic.
David Whiteley and Vincent Miller in Howie the Rookie. Photo: Jodie Hutchinson.
Amy Dobson, Vibewire.net 13-Oct-02
Howie The Rookie (October 2 – October 27, 2003) by Mark O’Rowe. Directed byGreg Carroll.
Red Stitch Actors Theatre has a particular talent in choosing theatrically interesting, contemporary and relevant works to produce. For a long time now in the world of contemporary alternative theatre, there has been a move away from scripted work and a greater emphasis on image and movement based theatre. This was (to summarise very briefly) a rejection of the naturalistic, traditionally structured, middle-of-the-road scripted dramas that have dominated the stage for so long. And this is why it’s great to find a company that finds and chooses scripts of current relevance, both in terms of style and content. Howie The Rookie by Irish writer Mark O’Rowe is such a work. In this contemporary and poetic monodrama, the fourth wall is gone and the characters address the audience one on one, making an intimate, at times confronting performance. In the first act, the audience rides along through the streets of Dublin with Howie (Vincent Miller), a bored, unattractive and horny youth out on a revenge mission with his mates Peaches and Ali. In the second act, the stage is Rookie Lee’s, for Rookie is the mate-turned enemy of Peaches- the object of revenge for the boys.
O’Rowe’s use of language is sometimes poetic and descriptive, sometimes sparse and minimal: the style produced, something along the lines of Irving Walsh meets Dylan Thomas. These are men’s stories. The characters portrayed are rather dismal for both the men and the women. Although often brutish and sometimes gruesome, the characters are written with compassion and understanding. Occasionally, moments of truth and beauty arise out of these grim settings, and what comes across is the basic need for peace, of some kind.
There is no set or ‘scenery’ as such, and no need for any props- just a long, dimly lit space with a red brick wall on one side and long rows of chairs on the other, forming a laneway-like space that is the stage. The stories of Howie and Rookie take us through streets, houses, bars and urinals, but the language, the bodies of the actors and their use of the long, empty space is all that is needed to invoke these changing images and keep the play alive and real in the mind. The simple changes in lighting were also effective in enhancing these images.
The skill of both actors was in bringing this intense writing to life not only with their voices (the play could easily be performed as a radio piece), but through bodies. Greg Carroll’s perceptive direction came through in the movement, which was stylised and coherent throughout the two acts. The production was just as notable as a well-choreographed movement interpretation of the story as it was a well-acted script, and these two elements of performance- voice and body- were unified in the characters.