After winning last year’s best newcomer prize in Edinburgh comedy awards, Ciarán Dowd is back, and yes, Don Rodolfo is back with him. But there are radical changes in his life this time. Don Rodolfo Martini Toyota, the legendary 17th-century swordsman and devoted cheese-lover, found God. Since trying to find vengeance for his father’s death, he has found no fulfilment in spilling the blood of his greatest enemies and in the beds of courtesans, but now he has found salvation, a purer and higher purpose for living (even if celibacy is virtually destroying him, but as he said, the rest he can handle). But the Devil relentlessly hungers for his soul and sets out to destroy him by any means possible. This hour of comedy in its highest form is about the battle against evil for a soul striving to be pure and chaste, and failing miserably at doing so.
Already at the opening scene, which is packed with canon-like energy and Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem, which into a cheap and cheesy dubstep by the end, the audience cannot help but laugh hysterically. There is something about Dowd’s piercing eyes circled with thick black eyeliner, his ground-long black reverend robe that leaves the audience mesmerised, and his charisma undoubtedly makes him a force of nature. There is a constant playing with the lights, smoke and audio effects, including that of the Devil’s himself, resembling scenes from The Exorcist, and an endlessly dumb messenger owl – Padre Rodolfo’s most trusted, yet completely useless sidekick. Dowd owns the stage, he engages with the audience, switching between a shamelessly confident, professional entertainer and a person helplessly laughing at his own jokes, which makes the performance stunning and takes it to new levels of hilarity.
Yes, the story is packed to the brim with clichés. It lines up everything that surrounds the 17th-century bigotry, Catholicism and Spanish sword-bearers. These make the storyline of divine battles after the Pope sent the Padre on holy missions predictable. While this rarely takes a tad away from the value, nevertheless, it still does. However, most often Dowd manages to balance it with specifically highlighting that the clichés are intentional, and often breaks them in a truly fascinating and amusing way, even managing to imply social criticism that is more than accurate for today.
Padre Rodolfo is an endlessly refreshing and smooth performance that is, beyond question, worth your time. In the end, it is all about change, and how a person can (or cannot) deal with it, and cheese, and ninja nuns (nunjas). All of these add up to an astoundingly whimsical show.
Ciarán Dowd: Padre Rodolfo is performing at Pleasance Courtyard – Upstairs (Venue 33)
At 21:45 until 25th August
Tickets available here
Image: Idil Sukan