It is unfortunately the case that while we may be familiar with an actor’s face, and see them appear across a plethora of films, they often remain simply ‘that guy Clint Eastwood shot’ or just another anonymous victim of one of Robert Di Nero’s killing sprees. Not only has Charles Hallahan been shot, stabbed and had his head leap off his shoulders and attempt to scuttle away from Kurt Russell’s flamethrower in The Thing (yes that was him), he has appeared in everything from Pale Rider to Space Jam to Dante’s Peak. Dead nearly two decades now, his son Liam writes and stars in a part-eulogy, part-theatre, part-documentary critiquing his father’s career and personal life.
Sincere in its intentions, though at times prone to overacting, Hallahan’s supporting cast Síofra O’Meara and Shane Robinson bring an exuberant performance, veering the audience from the solemn clips of Charles Hallahan’s actual eulogy to comedic skits and jokes with the addition of a cheap moustache and cheaper bath robe (particularly O’Meara who’s level of enthusiasm and bubbly talent is infectious and transfers to the audience throughout her performance).
The emotional backbone of this production is its emphasis on the sardonic rather than the ceremonious, poking fun at Charles Hallahan’s lest illustrious works, and the man himself in all his larger-than-life grandeur.
The final scene is the knockout punch that sends this from what might have otherwise been simple starry-eyed nostalgia straight into the realm of the genuinely profound, with the two Hallahan’s having a pseudo father-son duet, with a live action performance by Liam spliced over his father’s earlier work. The performance of the duet is underscored by its subject matter, with the father accusing his son of homosexuality and implying disgust at his depression and alcoholism brought on by the suicide of his friend/lover. Liam (who himself is gay) delivers a stunning performance, imbued with as much real emotion as acted, railing against the frustration of his being denied closure and the chance to live out his onstage ambitions with his father like the many other father/son duos of film and theatre. Ultimately, this is an onstage catharsis, both comedic and tragic, that delivers on the promise of its bold title.
Some Yanks Theatre Company’s Picnic on the Battlefield is showing at Pearse Centre 4-9 May