Review by Frances Winston
My First Holy CoVid
Multiple free performances daily from July 28th – 31st in a selection of site specific top secret locations in Dublin City Centre
This production is taking place in various Dublin City Centre locations, but they are top secret until the day of the show. I had to wait for a text message with the exact location of the performance I was attending, which I received three hours beforehand. Although I knew the general area, they were forced to undertake such clandestine measures due to CoVid 19, and the fact that the performance spaces are all residential areas. This show is part of the new Story on Your Door initiative, which aims to re-imagine residential areas in the city, and bring theatre to new spaces in the face of the challenges posed by the Covid19 global pandemic. The entire performance was designed in alignment with the national guidelines for social distancing.
In case the title hadn’t given it away, the focus of this show is none other than that rite of passage, The First Holy Communion, and CoVid’s effect on it.
While most of the public were deeply affected by workplace closures, Leaving Cert students faced an uncertain future, grandparents lamented not being able to hug their families, and people fell seriously ill with Coronovirus, for those aged around 6-7 years old, their main concern was that they wouldn’t get to make their communion. Although, as this play hilariously shows, it wasn’t so much because they would miss out on the religious aspect, rather they wouldn’t get to wear their fabulous clothes, and have their big parties with candy floss and slushie machines.
This is exactly the fate that befalls Reece Howard and Summer-Breeze Fagan (Thommas Kane Byrne and Ericka Roe) who have been friends since junior infants (so a whole four years). Despite going to a non-denominational school, they are all set for their big day. Summer-Breeze is getting a dress just like Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. Meanwhile Reece really wants to channel Pose star, Billy Porter, but his mother thinks that might be too much. Instead, he settles for a blue suit from a shop on Thomas Street.
The highlight for both is to be a joint party in a hotel – specifically a big hotel – that is being planned more meticulously than a royal wedding. It’s going to be the deadliest party Dublin has ever seen, until Coronavirus hits of course, and their plans are thrown into disarray.
This was conceived in response to children missing out on their Communion Day, and is aimed at families in Dublin City Centre communities. Indeed, it is possibly one of the most ‘Dublin’ plays I’ve ever seen. The performance I attended was in the grounds of Oliver Bond House, and the local residents were definitely enthralled by it, with people not only congregating in the performance area, but also sitting out on balconies watching the show. Both performers have a great energy, making for a fast-paced and frenetic show, although some of the references seemed to go over the younger audience members’ heads (many didn’t get the Billy Porter reference).
It is the kind of show it is impossible not to smile at, with plenty of ‘in jokes’, that only people in Dublin communities would get. This unfortunately does mean that it wouldn’t travel well in its current format, but it absolutely meets its brief. Advertised as 20 minutes, the performance I saw was nearer 15 minutes, as the actors flew through the fast-paced dialogue, and this felt like a perfect length for it.
In terms of adhering to guidelines, the actors were always 2m apart, and the audience also seemed to be conforming to social distancing, with many wearing a mask even though it was outdoors, and there was a real community feel to it.
This is funny and engaging, although probably won’t appeal as much to people without children of communion age, who will probably find themselves astonished by the lengths people are going to for the ‘big day’.