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Review: Dara Ó Briain deftly handles musical heckler and personal emotional story of adoption

Dara O Briain (c) Alan Hollingworth
12:57 11/06/2022

Few comedians can hold court before a live international audience quite like Dara Ó Briain, in spite of his quickfire excitable performance being delivered in that familiar Irish brogue.

The 50-year-old, originally from County Wicklow, is currently in the middle of his year-long tour, ‘So…. Where Were We,’ a nod to the two-year hiatus imposed by the pandemic that he and so many in the arts were forced to endure.

It isn’t Ó Briain’s first visit to Brussels – many in the audience recalled his gig at Schaerbeek’s Theatre 140 a few years ago - a popular address of which more later - so they were eagerly back for more.

Ó Briain imparted his usual intelligent, witty comedy to a packed crowd at Cirque Royal, improvising cleverly when conversing with those unfortunate to put their heads above the parapet by sitting in the front row. They included Tom, a chemical engineer from Ghent, who proved to be a good target, I mean, sport. Another crowd pleaser was Tom, a British man who, when cross-examined by Ó Briain as to why post-Brexit, he had managed to keep his job in the European Parliament, confessed he now identified as Portuguese. Tom’s city of birth he told us was Birmingham, which prompted a bizarre heckle from a man in the wings calling out the name of rock band Black Sabbath, continuing with it intermittently throughout the show.

A gentleman and scholar to the core, Ó Briain handled the call deftly. One slight misjudgement from the comedian though, was to correct his heckler that the band were in fact from Wolverhampton - metal fans in the audience wisely remained tight-lipped.  Ó Briain was otherwise in control of his comedic portfolio that naturally included the pandemic, a recent tricky knee operation, the humiliation of using a temporary walking stick, dreaded home schooling and reviewing CCTV footage of his garden after a street burglary.

But the second half of the night was largely filled with the heartfelt story of the search for the Irishman’s biological mother. Ireland’s archaic law – reforms are coming - denies adoptees the right to their birth certificate.

For most of the 20th century, many unmarried mothers in Ireland were coerced by the Catholic church to give up their children for adoption in what is now known as ‘Ireland’s shame’.  No specific details were given but Ó Briain alluded to the fact his mother - whom he eventually met in 2020 - was among those young women.  It was a brave subject to impart on his audience and the laughter was replaced with a few intakes of breath, but Ó Briain was clever enough to pepper such a sensitive subject with copious amounts of humour.

Ó Briain obviously has a big heart. Paying homage to his heckler, however irked to have him repeatedly call out during the evening, Ó Briain left the stage to the sound of Black Sabbath’s track, Paranoid.  By strange co-incidence, one of Sabbath’s’ earliest live performances of the Paranoid album took place in 1970 at Theatre 140 no less!

Anyone affected by the subject of adoption in Ireland can get in touch with Barnado’s Children’s Charity, Ireland

Written by Kim Revill