Some Fringe clichés exist for a reason. One of the more tragic ones tells of the talented performer who enters the stage to face a nearly empty auditorium. Only one or two punters have showed up and the performer has the choice between quitting or to committing to an hour long figurative lap dance, vying for the attention of the stranger in the darkness. In the case of Paperback Time Machine, it was not hard to stay engaged.
He threads before our eyes the complex geography of a city stitched together over centuries by the hard work of immigrants
When writer-performer Trevor O'Connell faced the solitary reviewer for his one man show at the upstairs room in The Mash House, he seemed completely unfazed. He took out a bound diary, started flipping through the pages and told the story of how in 1946 he, the young, Irish sailor Casey, landed in New York. His story serves to explore expat Irishness throughout the past 60 years and this is captured through symbols, music and loving descriptions of landmark buildings - some gone and forgotten now, some gone but forever etched into the collective cultural memory.
O'Connell captures momentous events in small anecdotes. When he plays Dylan on the guitar, meets a tragic poet, or reenact his escapades with the lovable crook Fitz, he threads before our eyes the complex geography of a city stitched together over centuries by the hard work of immigrants. The sailor's relationship to New York is epitomised in his infatuation with a woman as complex as the city itself.
Although the performance is still being developed, O'Connell's coming-of-age story is certainly accomplished and its rich, descriptive language and quirky characters could be straight out of a Don DeLillo novel. Presented by TMT Productions and directed by Genevieve and Anna Hulme-Beaman, this play is a warm and melancholic piece of storytelling - one of those shows that should not ever struggle with empty auditoriums again. Smash the fringe cliché or miss the next Conor McPherson at your own peril.