MDMA: Modern Day Maiden Aunt

Hayes Theatre, June 16

MDMA res
Geraldine Quinn. Photo supplied.

I had a beloved great-aunt who, among other qualities, set herself apart from the family pack simply by being single. Geraldine Quinn is not only single, she is in show-biz, so almost inevitably she radiates cool for her 19 (!) nieces and nephews and offers a glimpse of a slightly dangerous alternative to the predictability in which most children are cocooned.

Whether one would still care to be numbered among Quinn’s galaxy of relations after this one-woman cabaret show might be open to debate: she delights in lacing it with snifters of secret family business that might be hard to re-bottle. Then again most of the gags and anecdotes are actually told against herself, and she seems to thrive on 65 minutes of such punishment.

In writing her show (including the songs) Quinn, directed by Justin Hamilton, has created a technicolour mix of gauche, funny, coarse, witty, wicked, moral, and philosophical material as she satirizes obsessed parents and offers advice for young nieces. She can be hilarious, she can sing her yellow stockings off, and she can also be a nudge lame. Her biggest achievement is not the rabbit warren of jokes and observations about the joys and pitfalls of having children verses not having children, but the way she moves from being a brash, in-your-face entertainer to being surprisingly endearing. Perhaps that last-minute strain of vulnerability could have been thickened throughout.

The show’s irritation is musical: not the songs, themselves, which are competently crafted and mostly justify their place in terms of amusement value, but the presentation of them. They deserve better than being sung to recorded backing tracks that sound like something a teenager might play along with when learning an instrument. If economic realities prohibit a live band Quinn should trust her songs to stand up with just piano or guitar accompaniment. The show would be richer for the ensuing humanity and sparseness.