TheLiberty is a local paper for Dublin's south inner city

February 2001

Certified howl

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By Aoife Stokes

Originally set to run at the Tivoli until the end of January, Australian-inspired Certified Male has been so successful in its European debut here in Dublin it can now be seen until February 24th.

The play first opened in Australia two years ago and has been running almost non-stop there ever since. This humorous, lighthearted comedy is inspired by Steve Biddulp's book, Manhood: An Action Plan for Changing Men's Lives. But in between the cracking one-liners and flippant attitudes to love, life and everything else, the play raises some serious issues about the state of maleness today.

The woman behind importing the play to Ireland is the shows producer Helen Jordan. After seeing the Australian Certified Male in Sydney last year, Jordan made it her goal to bring it to Ireland. She describes it as one of the most innovative theatrical pieces that she has had the pleasure of witnessing.

Through music, mime and experienced Irish actors, Ireland's version of Certified Male, which is still selling out over a month after its debut, is testament to how universal such concepts can be. However with jokes featuring a range of different topics from Pat Kenny to Boyzone there is little evidence of its Australian origins.

The basic plot is that Garret, a cigar-smoking 50-something, is the managing director of a successful business which is in the process of restructuring. Garret springs it on three of his employees that he has planned an impromptu tropical holiday for the four of them for a bit of a "think tank". It transpires however that Garret, played by Vincent McCabe, unknown to the other three is actually dying and this trip is an attempt on his part to pass on some advice and wisdom to his stressed out staff.

The three lads, Alex, Jeff and Howard are a motley crew of stereotypical Irish men. Ben Palmer plays Howard, the youngest of the three and a pretentious, dope-smoking, womaniser who collects modern art in his Temple Bar pad. Then there's Nicholas Grennell as Alex, a clumsy, nervous, workaholic who has a demanding wife and a son he never sees.

Stressed-out Jeff has children in four different counties and in between mediation sessions and anger management classes is trying desperately to keep up with 29-year-old wife number four. Played by John M. Ryan, Jeff is a very moving character opening up the most in terms of his family history and the relationship with his father that he never had.

Drawing on real problems facing men in Irish society today from their physical insecurities to the deeper issues of childhood trauma, Certified Male evokes a variety of different emotions while still ensuring that the audience leaves with a smile on their face and the inherent belief that things aren't so bad.

So for women longing to find out a little more about what goes on inside the heads of the male species or for men in need of a group hug, Certified Male is an education for all.

Certified Male is by Scott Rankin and Glynn Nicholas, Helen Jordan Productions in association with Art Cackle & Hoot Entertainment. Bookings can be made through the Tivoli on 4544472. Tickets £17.50