Review: The Irish Giant

Written for The Stage

Do you own a donor card? Even in our secular society the question of donating one’s organs after death, of carving up the body, causes some people moral angst. Imagine then how the idea would have struck the God-fearing folk of the 18th century.

‘Is there a material basis for the soul?’ is the question behind theatre company Cartoon de Salvo’s new show The Irish Giant. With a ragtag charm, Alex Murdoch, Brian Logan and Neil Haigh tell the story of Scottish anatomist John Hunter’s quest to obtain the body of Charles Byrne, an eight-foot tall Irish ‘giant’ (played with affecting tenderness by Haigh).

Murdoch, Logan and Haigh are immediately likeable performers and from the moment they dive into the dissected body of Hunter himself they have us in the palms of their hands. Byrne’s sad story is told with imaginative flare, involving witty musical interludes, Rebecca Hurst’s gorgeous animations and even a couple of bits of stage magic thrown in.

For all this The Irish Giant feels incomplete. Perhaps it’s a script that isn’t tight enough, or that the questioning isn’t sharp enough, but like the illusive soul for which they search, something is missing from this otherwise sweet show.

Runs until 9 June. For more information go here.

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