Ciarán Dowd @ Pleasance Courtyard

An uneven religious romp from 2018 Best Newcomer Ciarán Dowd

Review by Rob Young | 12 Aug 2019
  • Ciarán Dowd @ Pleasance Courtyard

What is it about sexy priests in 2019? Hot on the cassock tails of Andrew Scott’s conversion-causing turn in Fleabag comes Ciarán Dowd’s master of nuns, Padre Rodolfo. There is no slicker vicar, no more irreverent reverend, and no show on the Fringe featuring such a breakout performance from a plastic owl. 

Padre Rodolfo is a direct sequel to Dowd’s award-winning 2018 show about widow-maker and window-licker Don Rodolfo, a Byronian swashbuckler who leaves dead enemies and bedded senoritas in his wake. But Rodolfo has had a change of heart, swapping his codpiece for a dog collar. When Beelzebub himself rears his horned head, Padre Rodolfo – sometimes father, often Daddy – must summon his faith to cast the dark lord into the shadow realm. 

It’s an admirably ridiculous narrative, played with staggering swagger by Dowd, who is so laid-back that he forgets his lines throughout the first half and largely abandons his early attempts at a Spanish accent. The parodies of religion in the first section work well, for example in an introduction where Communion wafers are used to make it rain, or in Rodolfo’s manipulative opening sermon.

Alas, soon the structure of the show becomes too repetitive and static. The middle section is remarkably baggy for something so light-hearted, as Dowd does not have the acting gravitas – or diction – to make lengthy monologues engaging. Silly stunts and audience participation are soon ditched for lots of heavy narrative description, with every gag about fisting, bumming and cheese getting increasingly tiresome.

Thank Deus, then, for Roldolfo’s owl sidekick, a sympathetic hoot who echoes Manuel in Fawlty Towers and gives much-needed variety to the hour, not least in a dramatic demon-busting climax. If only Dowd could exorcise the busy narrative and saggy script; for as it is, Padre Rodolfo is stuck in entertainment limbo.

Ciarán Dowd: Padre RodolfoPleasance Courtyard (Upstairs), until 25 Aug (not 14), 9.45pm, £8-12