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12th Sep 2022

REVIEW: Wake is one of the very best things you’ll experience all year

Rory Cashin

Funny, sexy, emotional, a truly unique experience.

A few years ago, the creatives at THISISPOPBABY released Riot! unto the world, a unique theatrical experience that felt like a direct response to the mood of Ireland at the time. As art, artists and spaces where art could flourish were being squeezed out by endless hotels and identikit bars, Riot! represented cutting edge artists – from Emmet Kirwan to Panti Bliss – coming together for a rallying battle cry.

This year, the collective have debuted Wake at the Dublin Fringe Festival, and somehow – impossibly – it is even better.

Once again, the category is horned-up circus, but the vibe is cutting edge entertainment meets traditional Irish culture. The party is a celebration of death, but not necessarily of any one person. Instead, it asks us to say goodbye to a certain way of life, a certain mindset… but we’ll get to all of that.

Before that, we’ll need to explain why you should be prepared to see something like… well… this here:

From scene to scene, you’re never quite sure what Wake is going to bring next.

It could be some tear-inducing, absolutely gorgeous poetry from Nigerian-Irish poet Felicia Olusanya, a show-stopping accordion solo by Darren Roche, an utterly seducing pole-dance routine by Lisette Krol, or… a duo Irish-dancing with huge red balloons covering the top halves of their body.

Ranging from impressive feats of physicality, to moody musical numbers to showcase the performers incredible talents, or raucous comedy numbers – DJ Duncan Disorderly will never fail to get a laugh from the crowd – it is a full-on emotional rollercoaster, an all-out assault on your synaptic receptors, but in the best possible way.

While the central theme is very much where Old-Ireland-Meets-New-Ireland, it is how it tells that story that gives the show its impact. Wake feels very much like a celebration of end of the pandemic as we knew it, spending so much time being told to stay away from people, away from having fun.

Wake wants you to get back out there, to dance, to touch, to hug, to sweat, to fuck, to have as much consensual fun as you want to.

Nowhere is the confluence of those two thrusts of the show more evident than in the Michael Roberson’s solo number…

Arriving on stage in full GAA gear and mandatory O’Neills gear bag, over the course of his few minutes on stage, he literally strips away the idea of what the idea of masculinity is or should be.

Revealing his sports bag to be transporting a giant disco ball, Roberson disrobes from the sports kit to reveal a mesh vest and Kylie-esque golden hotpants, rousing the crowd up as he mixes modern dance, aerial acrobatics and classic Irish dancing.

Peeling away the ideal of what the world expects of him, Roberson’s time on stage is a perfection representation of the show as a whole. Unexpected but joyous, emotional and seductive, thought-provoking but still hugely entertaining.

Wake is being performed as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival until Saturday, 17 September. Tickets for the shows can be found here.

All imagery via Ruth Medjber/THISISPOPBABY

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