Gavin Friday, “I didn’t come up the Liffey in a bubble”, Spiegeltent 23rd Sept 2003
By Patrick Lynch
The Boy in the Bubble
If the best artists wear their hearts on their sleeves, then Gavin Friday laid his bare in his Dublin Fringe Festival show “I Didn’t Come Up The Liffey in A Bubble”. From the outset it was clear this was going to be no revelation of the chocolates and roses kind. Walking through the audience of the spectacular Spiegeltent in his green Ireland soccer jersey and shell suit pants, Gavin, the Dublin yob, verbally abused, not to mention pissed on anyone who got in his way via his specially adapted water squeeze cock. To a Big Brother backing beat he played the two faces of Dublin. The pissed, aggressive header of a teenage father, looking for ‘Jacintaaaaa’ to the highly pitched spoiled rotten Southside Sweetie. Both of which could only have struck a chord with anyone from the fair and not so fair city.
Having disposed of his Dunnes Stores ‘shoos’ to anyone who would take them he ambled to the stage and lay on the flat of his back like a man in the gutter looking at the stars. Or maybe a boy in his bed dreaming of Ziggy Stardust? Rising to his feet, he stripped to his underwear and socks, preening and dressing in his room — a pubescent lad torn over just what to wear. And then, having become “Gavin Friday”, fully dressed in his more traditional threads, he told us his story with the aid of poster sized picture boards.
The premise seemed simple. Surely any of us could do it. Just stand up and talk about our lives, loves, influences and failures. But then not everyone has quite seen their vision through to the extent that Gavin Friday has. ‘Handbag Hanvey’ was just one of the school nicknames attributed to a teenage boy who wore long hair, ear rings and ladies dresses and then WENT OUT ON THE STREET. Conventional punk gear could only have been pussyfooting it by comparison. And then there was the conviction. ‘THE DOLE OR THE CIVIL SERVICE’. The general ‘ARSEHOLE’ put downs of his father. The YES versus the NO’s all around. Breaking out of his car-less cul de sac of Cedarwood Road to hang out with the apparently wealthier prods. The Derek Rowans and the Paul Hewsons. Discovering Oscar Wilde at twelve. TWELVE! Having chats with David Bowie in your head, where he spoke back to you in that polite English accent of his.
For each head in the roll call Gavin easily wore a different hat, slipping in and out of character, playing a thousand parts in a one man show. Also featured in the gallery were Jaques Brel, ‘proof that punk started before ’76’ and Kurt Weill where Gav became most playful, totally immersing himself in a sharp and brittle nazi chic narration. But most touchingly of all was the prop for ‘Mr & Mrs’ where the captions were switched in a role reversal over an image of (ex-wife) Rene and himself plucked from a punk youth.
The innocence of the picture, two lovers side by side in long coats and bushy hair do’s presented an idealistic portrait of pure soul mates. That they split up a lifetime later prompted Gavin to concede that she was the inspiration behind much of his writing. ‘I FUCKED UP, SHE FUCKED UP’. What more could he say really? He finished this part of the set with a spoken word and eventual song version of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. But if such moments were reflective there were the lighter ones too.
The sheer theatrics of Gavin’s – Bowie- MacBeth, where crouched from a table in the middle of the floor he became drenched in a glorious white spotlight. There was the love for his mother ‘ARE YOU OKAY FOR UNDERPANTS AND SOCKS LOVE?’ The begrudging respect for his father whose lines he steals: ‘he’d live in you ear and rent the other out in flats…’ and still steals for the title of the evening’s show. There was the impromptu reproductions of a Picasso featuring Doreen and Anto, unfortunate enough to be sitting in the front row seats. The tributes to Johnny Rotten. The anointing and kissing of eh, Gavin’s ring. If at the very least Friday is an art junkie and seventies pop culture connoisseur then the message of the evening was ‘GOD HELP OUR KIDS’. Indeed, given what’s out there now what will they ever have the chance to stand on a stage about at forty-three?
Other than that, the evening was as magical and entertaining as the best theatre demands. Gavin ‘Finner’ Friday was as riveting as ever, pushing the limits once again to produce and deliver something completely different. Tonight was extra special though. Tonight he made it personal. Having created the sights, sounds and smells of his city and his own unique place within it, as a fellow Dub, I found this an exceptionally moving experience. The sort that might linger in the head on the Northside Nitelink home.