Where do you even start when it comes to adapting one of the most-loved Irish books (and films) of all time? Roddy Doyle's 'The Snapper' holds a special place in the heart of several generations, not least because of Stephen Frears's 1993 film - which introduced iconic phrases like “Are y'alright, Sharon?”, “That was A1, Sharon” and “Sharon Curley's up the pole” into the modern Irish lexicon.
Now, however, the story of the 20-year-old Sharon Curley (or Rabbitte, as she is known in this production) has been adapted for the stage for the first time, as the story of her harried pregnancy – and how her family and the local community of Barrytown react to the rumour of the child's paternity – play out.
Simon Delaney takes on Colm Meaney's role as the Rabbitte family patriarch, and is truly excellent as the boorish-but-kind-hearted Jimmy, striking the right balance between 'perennially-put-upon' and 'loveable softie' as he guards his family more fiercely than the invisible dog that occasionally invades the stage. Speaking of the stage, Paul Willis's '80s-themed costume and set design works well throughout, the mobile set doubling as both the Rabbitte family home and the local pub, emblazoned with neon frames and posters of pop acts like A-Ha.
Hazel Gilmore is also undeniably brilliant as the defiant Sharon, bearing not only a striking physical resemblance to the film's original Sharon, Tina Kellegher, but a stylistic one, too – perhaps even a little too closely at times. In fact, the cast often feel hemmed-in by both the script and the direction, which seems to leave little space for reinvention or innovation for the stage. 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' may ring true as an adage, but it would also have been nice to have been surprised, instead of anticipating a line you know is coming next; for instance, once Jimmy picks up the garden shears in Act 2, the audience are already giggling before the 'Hey, Burgess... snip snip' quip is delivered.
That supporting cast – from former 'Fair City' actress Kate Gilmore as Sharon's BFF Jackie, to the annoying-but-loveable twins and Sharon's mum Veronica (Hilda Fay) – are all spot-on, while Simon O'Gorman's George Burgess admirably treads the line between 'gobshite' and 'creep'.
Yet as enjoyable as 'The Snapper' is – and it is hugely enjoyable at times – the biggest problem is that much of the action, including the tension between Sharon and Georgie Burgess, Sharon and her family and Sharon and her friends, is resolved not far into Act 2. Once she has gained her father's acceptance of her 'condition', the play then becomes a vehicle for comedy and not drama; good for a few slapstick bellylaughs (i.e. “Tell me Sharon, are you constipated at all?”), but lacking in momentum - and by the last twenty minutes it has begun to drag.
Despite its faults, there is much to like about 'The Snapper' - not least the lovely surprise at the end, which will bring a lump to your throat and elicit a chorus of 'awwws' from the audience. We won't spoil it for you, but let's just say that the title is a dead giveaway. A1, Sharon? Not quite - but it's certainly a strong pass, at the very least.