Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
August, 2000

A few years ago O'Neill visited the Traverse with Off My Face, a semi-autobiographical show about his alcoholism and how he confronted it. This is a kind of sequel to that show, about his obsession since childhood with Hollywood thanks to an ageing and probably mendacious cinema projectionist. If his appearance in the film Michael Collins was a modest disaster, his trip to Los Angeles with the alcoholism show was an unparalleled catastrophe total attendance over ten nights: one person, the would-be producer he was staying with.

O'Neill's career as a comedian stands him in good stead here: he has an engaging personality, and neither glosses over nor grossly exaggerates his various humiliations or his incredulous observations about life in La La Land. He is more ill-at-ease with ideas of theatricality, tending to pepper scene changes with blackouts and musical cues when he undoubtedly could just glide smoothly into the next section. He also ends the 80-minute piece on a self-conscious metatheatrical note. But his humour is both sharp and relaxed, and his vein of sentiment seldom veers into outright sentimentality. To call his show endearing is emphatically not to damn it with faint praise.

Written for the Financial Times Web site, ft.com

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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