I was unprepared for the tour de force which is Mikel Murfi. I wondered how this older man of pedestrian appearance could sustain a seventy-five-minute monologue and keep me and the rest of the audience engaged. Well, the answer is with consummate craftsmanship, vitality, and compassion.
Mikel’s tale unfolds as we live through the funeral service of Kitsy Rainer. We learn of the life she shared with her husband Pat and what an unlikely triumphant coupling this has been. He is a mute cobbler and she an alluring almost Poppin-esque character. Local legend tells of the day she appeared to blow into the station with her raven dark hair and red lips and proceed to shake up a sleepy traditional community who embraced as their own.
Mikel embodies many of the town’s characters who participate in unraveling the story of the iridescent Kitsy. They share their memories of her and shine spotlights on events in the couple’s life together, revealing a real life love story. We learn of the heroines antagonist, Sylvia Neary, and of Pat’s stalwart friendship the kindly Hubie. Through the relaying of the characters foibles and the replication of their mannerisms, Mikel Murfi is transformed before our eyes into each one of them.
Living as we do in a society obsessed with youth culture, tooth whitening, Botox and hair extensions, it is refreshing to witness an older artist telling a tale of the simple and unpretentious among us. The telling of the jostling personalities and symbiotic influences one upon the other highlights the stuff of life lived by authentic people. He illuminates the good and the bad, the comedy and the tragedy and most importantly, the flawed human love which binds them all.
Mikel stands barefoot and alone on the stage with a solitary dining chair as a prop and conjures an entire community who captivate our minds. He has boundless energy and the monologue romps at a pace which sometimes leaves the audience struggling to keep up. As the story is revealed we come to love the characters individually and particularly Pat and Kitsy as a couple. When Mikel tells of them facing her illness together the exquisite intimacy and tenderness he portrays is a theatrical wonder. I found myself with a tear in my eye and unable to exhale. It is rare to experience this in the theatre without the slight cynicism of feeling manipulated. Mikel, however, can share the extremes and vulnerabilities of humanity with deftness and ease. Clearly, his performance comes from a man of large heart and astute observation of the human condition.
This is a theatrical performance which deserves to be seen. Mikel Murfi is a performer who has earned the right to be heard. This is a piece written with both integrity and intelligence. We may not all be familiar with Catholic eccentricities or the realities of life in a small Irish community but the human condition which exists within us all is mirrored back to each and every person lucky enough to be in the audience.
Go. Hear him and rejoice.
Review by Lesley Bardell
A one-man show written and performed by Mikel Murfi
LOCO and RECKLESS PRODUCTIONS in association with TRICYCLE THEATRE present
The Man in The Woman’s Shoes
Pope John Paul I is not long dead, autumn is closing in and Pat Farnon has ‘some business’ to do in town. Set in Ireland in October 1978, The Man In The Woman’s Shoes follows the life of Pat Farnon as he walks to town and back again.
Funny, tender and at times downright daft, this beautifully observed piece has toured across the USA and Ireland, including a sell-out run at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.