By Danielle Farrow
David Leddy’s tale of grifters, brothels, mediumship, exploitation and castration – set up as related to him in a pub by two drunken scam artists – plays with fakery and reality, theatre and meta-theatre, suspension of disbelief and the art of swindling. It includes swipes at financial, celebrity and art markets and plenty of humour, along with shifting accents, characters and deliberately DIY lighting states.
In a paint-splattered, sheet-covered, tool and alcohol-sprinkled theatre space, actors Wendy Seager and Neil McCormack portray a child-seeking couple, small-time purveyors of fake goods who try to move into art forgeries, with their own take on how to make the big time in this fame-hungry world. They also present the other characters involved in their mind-boggling account, none of whom are easy to pin down, despite skilful characterisations, for little is as it seems, and accents change not only for different roles, but for the central couple as well. They are scammers and little can be known about them as real people, and – by extension – about Leddy as the playwright and director.
The whole set-up, with a stage manager playing Leddy’s role of questioner in the pub and lighting problems warned of to start, plays with just how much bullshit people are prepared to swallow. As this presented journey through small-time crookery, art market skulduggery, preying on personal pain and all the consequences of believing what we want to believe – i.e. being suckers – unfolds, just how much spectators collude with ‘art’ (visual, theatrical, literary, etc.) is also explored and for this reason an audience member’s response will be highly personal, perhaps beyond even the normal, connected to their own awareness as well as enjoyment.
Leddy plays a lot with references, within the created context of the piece, within the context of the theatre space and within the context of his own work, with prior productions mentioned, but that’s not arrogance or just plain in-jokes available only to a few, because hey – the woman complains about such things in the pub talking to ‘Leddy’, so it’s all very self-aware. Such conscious cleverness can, of course, be as irritating as entertaining.
Long Live the Little Knife is a slick production, with two very strong performers being put through many paces – and showing well for this – and it is indeed an amusing escapade. It is also, for all its touching on topical social issues and moments of pathos (again, created rather consciously), somewhat hollow: an intricately woven piece of ‘art’ that will appeal to those who want it to.