According to Owen O’Neill’s show his life started around the time of his 13th birthday when, whilst up a tree stealing apples from a local nunnery, he was struck by lightning. This was, in his eyes, the catalyst for a bizarre series of events including a kleptomaniacal obsession with roast chicken and a run in with the IRA.
O’Neill is the epitome of the Edinburgh veteran. So vast is his experience that when he wakes up in an anonymous hotel room and stares at the ceiling fan spinning ceaselessly above him, instead of its incessant whirs, he hears the rapturous applause of an audience. So bound to the festival is he that when he staggers to the window on a morning and peers out through the blinds at the bustle of The Royal Mile he growls, ‘Edinburgh. Shit. I’m still only in Edinburgh.’
His latest show displays all the knowledge and control you’d expect from such a long-serving and battle-scarred soldier of the fringe. Whilst the Apocalypse Now comparison may admittedly be a little strong - I am obviously not insinuating that O’Neill is a murderous alcoholic who longs for war - it is a thrill to see a seasoned performer utilising skills attained through an illustrious career and 20 years of fringe appearances.
His acting and his writing are both manic, high-energy and unhinged and, although his script could do with some light polishing, his performance is filled with big moments of physical comedy and subtle nuances that keep the piece balanced. He contorts his diminutive, wiry form to play his many characters and gives them all space to blossom throughout the narrative, creating a densely populated jungle of strong personalities, comedy and drama.
Charlie may not surf, but O’Neill is riding a wave and you’d be wise to catch it whilst you can.