In 1998, Owen O'Neill's scripted autobiographical confession Off My Face, about his alcoholism, marked a turning point for the Tyrone-born comedian. Subsequent shows It Was Henry Fonda's Fault and My Son The Footballer used aspects of his life together with exaggeration and invention to generate clever solo comic plays, with the result that it's more comfortable now to describe O'Neill as a comedy writer and performer than a straightforward comic. (He also appears this year in the beleaguered all-star production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest at the Assembly Rooms.)
Finding Mick Jagger is a further step along this path, in that it welcomes a second performer on to the stage. Pauline Goldsmith, the subject of critical raves last year for her own solo piece Bright Colours Only, plays O'Neill's wife and various other women whom he encounters on his quest to track down The Rolling Stones' singer and persuade him to retire so that O'Neill's obsessive fandom can also take a rest, thus salvaging his marriage.
The fan stories from childhood and adolescence are all plausible, and he does a fantastic Jagger strut, even without orange peel in his mouth to push his lips out. The embarrassing episodes at places such as Jagger's office and a prostate clinic – sometimes portrayed on audio or video tape – are less so, but O'Neill puts such energy into his humiliation that he carries them off. The show climaxes with a simple but remarkable coup. It's only about rock 'n' roll, but I like it.
Written for the Financial Times.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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