Case Study- Brendan O’ Connell

This case study will focus on Brenden O’Carroll who is the writer and main actor comedian of the series of Mrs Brown Boys.
According to an interview in The Big Issue, (2015) it was the death of his mother that made Brendan O’Carroll become a comedian. O’ Carroll states in the interview ‘But my mammy was part of this. I made it because I’d kept it all going for so long. It was mammy who gave me belief’.
(The Big Issue, March 2015)
This indicates how the relationship with his mother inspired him to create comedy. In his comedy show Mrs Brown Boys (that he wrote and performs as Mrs Brown) he recreates a traditional Irish mother figure. By performing this, it was his way to connect with his mother. This applies to me as it reflects the way I look after my children. I show this in my performance by using plates and knives and serving fruit to show a loving caring mother who looks after her children. However my own upbringing was the opposite and I wanted to show this to the audience without the audience showing a reflection of sadness or pity. By using comedy this changed the atmosphere and changed the seriousness of the sad memory. This linked with ‘Oh what a lovely War’ as they used humour to cover the traumatic horrific subject matter which takes the edge of the trauma effect which the actor is trying to portray to the audience. I felt this connected very well with Mrs Brown Boys Character as it linked it with my solo autobiography.
In the second series of Mrs Brown Boys, an episode titled ‘Mammy’s going’ specially shows how the children of Mrs Brown are talking about Mrs Brown dog and how they believe the dog needs to go to a home. Mrs Brown listens in to the conversation, where she misunderstands and assumes that they are discussing about her. She creates comedy by the use of facial expressions and over exaggerating moments. For example when one of her sons says ‘She was pissing herself as she was walking and didn’t even know it’ Mrs Brown looks down on the floor and grabs a mops to wipe where she has been standing. By watching this episode it gave me ideas on what I could use in my performance. I used a ‘big arse’ to exaggerate and used props to extend the meaning behind my autobiographical performance. I used parody comedy so the audience would detach and not feel sorry for me. In the same way Mrs Brown used this in his performance to give the audience choice to how to react. (Mrs Brown Boys Series 2 Episode, January 2012)
This is referring to ‘Oh what a lovely war’ as they use parody comedy and Commedia dell’arte. They achieve this by the use of clowning costumes and the use of voice for example one scene in the play the Sergeant shouts orders to the soldiers that are clothes in clown costumes and are holding umbrellas. This combination of using props and costumes created humour as it detach you from reality. Also the tone of the sergeant’s voice was low and he was giving orders using gibberish language. Oh what a lovely war The Musical at Theatre Royal Stratford February (2014)
Commedia dell’arte is a type of theatre that is based on improvisation on real life events. It began in Italy in the 16th Century. (Bellinger, 1927, pp 153-157)
Misri Dey states how when developing a solo performance how it evolves around one person’s story which is usually viewed by numerous audience members this puts the performer in a vulnerable position, but gives power and control to the performer. She suggests how by speaking to the audience it creates engagement to the audience. This works considerably well and brings political issues within the piece of work. It shows you power gets your message across between the performer and the audience.
In regard to the practitioners within their interviews they was a complex way of proceeding. Etchells, Baker and Pearson specially used auto biographical performance to bring their personal experiences to life, in order for the audience to see from another perspective and experience other people’s memories. Misri (2015, quoted in Baker and Barret, 2007, p.30) ‘Baker has made an extensive body of solo work, spanning over forty years. She uses sculpture, interactive installation, theatre, performance art, film, music and more recently movement, and is renowned for her strongly visual performance, having trained as a fine artist at St Martin’s School of Art, London. Like many other experimental visual artists, she started to include herself as a performer in her artwork, wryly documented as starting on the 15th November 1973 in her piece called Princess Anne’s Wedding Day: ‘a marvellously auspicious occasion on which to become a “performance artist”’
Bobby Baker has unusually method of interacting solo work with her use of performance art, Movement and use of props. Baker has over 40 years’ experience as a performance artist, her work involves working with mental illness. The use of props and the awareness of mental health conditions reflects on my solo autobiographical piece because my mother was an alcoholic, a gambler and addicted to cigarettes. Baker gave me the idea to use props within my solo performance because it brings that power for what you are trying to perceive.
I also researched other work that Brendan O’Carroll did for example I watched a scene in the film (The Fattest Man in Britain) where Brendan played a vicar at a funeral. It was hilarious because the use of over exaggerated props for example the oversized coffin that had to be lifted by a Crane. The coffin had a picture of an English breakfast this how the person showed the cholesterol dietary health problems and what can happen to people who overeat. I particularly liked the part where the coffin got stuck in the plot of ground made for the coffin. The grave was too small for the coffin that was extremely oversized, so the vicar played by Brendan O’Carrol and the funeral members jumped on the coffin to make it go in the ground. It gave me the idea that you can cover the sadness behind the story you are reflecting as a solo performer and used this within my work.
(The Fattest Man in Britain 2009)

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