Review: Howie the Rookie (Red One Theatre Collective)

On the rainiest day in June (so far) I stood with a crowd on the NW corner of College and Grace Streets, waiting for Howie the Rookie. None of us knew what to expect. Our umbrellas twirled under the pelting rain until we were greeted by a Red One Theatre Collective representative who presented a damp attendance list. Suddenly, two men, shouting in Irish accents flew by, and the play began.

Our umbrella-ed entourage was led towards our “secret location” and I noticed how poetic the urban environment seemed from this heightened, theatrical perspective. A young couple walking their chihuahua with an Elizabethan collar in the distance became characters in our show. Graffiti appeared as decoration, rather than vandalism, and litter seemed perfectly placed, rather than, well, littered.

Short of spoiling the secret location for potential viewers, I will only say that Howie the Rookie took place in a perfectly curated space. I found myself sipping a beer, (seated, don’t worry), breathing in damp, woody air and listening to the rain spilling down the eavestrough as the character of Howie started his monologue.

The piece was comprised of two rollicking, vulgar Irish monologues which despite frequent use of the “c” word, wove brilliantly together and had a powerful and thought-provoking closing message.

Actor Brenhan McKibben launched into a spirited portrayal of Howie, the protagonist of Howie the Rookie, and had the monumental task of introducing the audience to all of the characters of his life while moving the story forward.

I felt that at times Brenhan grappled with the weight of this task – at times lacking a clarity of focus which would have pushed his performance fromgo maith to go hiontach. His physicality, perhaps the most important feature of his character, was spot on.

Tyrone Savage as The Rookie was everything Howie described in his first monologue: charming to a fault, pretty, and clever. And while overarching themes of poverty, redemption and cause and effect coursed through both monologues with a severe and honest tenderness, it was in the potty-mouthed humour that Howie the Rookie was rooted in reality.

Rookie’s description of his morbidly obese sometime lover “Avalanche” belching over his shoulder while slow dancing with “open-mouth splashers” will linger long after this play closes.

Red One Theatre Collective describes their productions more as artistic “happenings” than as theatre. The Director of this production, David Ferry is credited not as director, but as curator of this lovely, constructed hour of Irish joking, pissin’, and tough life. Not to be missed.


Howie the Rookie by Red One Theatre Collective – meet at the North West Corner of College and Grace Streets 15 minutes before showtime

– Performances are on Wednesday – Sunday at 7pm and 9pm

– Admission is free but by RSVP only:  Seating is limited.