Review by Devan Marr
45 min (actual run time 30 minutes) | Comedy | General
If I had to describe Donkey Derby in a word it would be ‘feisty.’ Tess McManus plays Mary, a young Irish girl from Letterkenny who is having second thoughts about taking part in the town’s annual donkey derby. What is a donkey derby? It’s an annual event where the town nominates the three people who least want to ride the three most stubborn donkeys around a track and compete for a golden turnip that isn’t even gold – it’s just unripe!
Despite the name, the derby is really only a back drop for a very fast one-way conversation between McManus and her audience, Percy the donkey. In this tale of a girl facing her social anxiety (something akin to a theatrical chick flick, but in a good way), McManus recounts her life as a young girl living in Ireland during The Troubles. Whether it be describing her creative methods of getting detention, her childhood crush on Murphy Donovan, or her dream of learning to play Thunderstruck by AC/DC on the banjo, McManus thoroughly entertains the audience. Her performance is fun and endearing, if not a little fast. I suspect it was just first-night jitters, as the show ran under its 40-minute scheduled run time. McManus fires off her lines at a startling pace but with a rather convincing Irish accent. I would suggest sitting near the front as sometimes her speed and accent make things difficult to hear.
Of course, as this play appears to take place during The Troubles in Ireland, it is not all girlish dreams and pleasant thoughts. The play takes a brief but sombre turn to a frightening memory of her as a young girl visiting Belfast (a not-so-subtle nod to the harsh reality and strife Ireland faced at the time). It is a bit jarring, considering the overall levity of the piece, but it is done well.
Overall, Donkey Derby is definitely an entertaining show to see. Tess McManus is a delightful performer and the script is funny and engaging. Leave those who are hard-of-hearing at home but bring the rest. Although I wouldn’t rank it as the ultimate Fringe must-see show, it is worth it to witness McManus’ energetic performance, as well as the play’s moral to live your life the way you want to.
Donkey Derby is playing at BYOV G-The Courtroom (2nd Floor Arts Court, 2 Daly Ave) on Friday June 15 at 10:00pm, Saturday June 16 at 12:00pm and 10:15pm, Sunday June 17 at 12:00pm and 10:15pm, Thursday June 21 at 10:00pm, and Friday June 22 at 10:00pm.