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The Stage MUST SEE for Howie the Rookie

The first review for Howie the Rookie in Edinburgh is in – and it’s a Must See from The Stage!

an adrenaline-filled masterclass

Howie the Rookie

Via a brace of breakneck monologues, Howie and the Rookie weave their doomed tale of loyalties and rivalries in Dublin’s urban netherworld. First produced in 1999, the searing imagery and struggling humanity of Mark O’Rowe’s play have lost none of their resonance a decade-plus later, guaranteed Tom Vaughn-Lawlor’s whirlwind performance.

In the first half, homeboy Howie juggles girlfriends as he deals with the psychopaths who populate the manor, in the second the Rookie follows up the tale as their lives converge, sparked by a revenge beating-up that somehow, plausibly, involves a mattress, scabies, dead fighting goldfish and megathugs Peaches and Ladyboy. Like Alfie on crack, this is more picaresque than odyssey, yet there is a menacing inevitability mainlining directly from Greek tragedy as Howie’s actions and the Rookie’s mere existence set off a chain of fateful events that even the Gardai cannot avert.

Originally written for two actors, Landmark’s new production opts for a solo performer – a daunting challenge at 80 minutes. Director O’Rowe skilfully maps out the limits and then steps back to allow Vaughn-Lawlor to run with it, creating an adenaline-filled masterclass that appears simultaneously effortless. Things don’t always hit the mark – technique eclipses emotion in the first half, and the distinction between the narrators is hazy.

Vaughn-Lawlor clearly has fun riding O’Rowe’s jagged poetry, a magnificent mix of violence and poignancy that climax in the Rookie’s epic evocation of the battle between Howie and Ladyboy – this scene alone makes it worth the price of your ticket.

Assembly Hall 1-25 aug, 12:40
Review by Nick Awde