Conor Fox finds out that ‘There’s no show like a Joe show’ at Dublin Theatre Festival

Featuring music from the man himself, The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down originated in Virginia Co. Cavan and did the rounds in surrounding counties before being transferred to Dublin’s Olympia Theatre, returning for a limited run during Dublin’s Theatre Festival.

Set in The Glenaduff Innin Cavan on a stormy St. Stephen’s night, the play features a host of small town characters, easily recognisable and identifiable, whose stories unravel as the night unfolds.

As a critic, there’s a lot to nitpick about the play. The majority of the plot takes place in the first half making it feel overly full yet strangely sluggish at the same time. The audience is clearly waiting for ‘Joe’ to arrive and when he finally does, the second half reads like a tribute concert stuck in the middle of a play; the last scene wrapping up what happened in the previous act.

The storyline set around the ‘Horse’ Munley’s apparent 60th birthday and English blow-in Jane’s mysterious reason for wanting to celebrate his birthday isn’t particularly strong and the actors play most of the lines for laughs. That said, the laughs come consistently and raucously and the cast clearly understand their characters fully which allows for a performance deeper than the script may intend.

It may not be a great play but it’s a great show. John O’Grady’s appearance as Joe Dolan lifts the audience literally onto their feet. He easily manages to fill the stage of the Olympia, belting out the late Dolan’s hits. Between his presence and the audience’s eagerness for joining in, it’s impossible to sit still; even if you’re just grinning at the cheese of it all.

If you’re a hardcore “theatre is art” fan, it’s not advisable to see the show. If you’re just looking for a few laughs and a bit of a dance, head on down to the Olympia. You’ll probably be about 30 years younger than the rest of the audience but embrace it – you’ll be left wanting More and More and More.

There may be ‘no show like a Joe show’ but McIntyre, O’Grady and crew offer a fine alternative.