“Why is the third hand on a watch called the second hand? If our knees were turned inwards, what would a chair look like?”
Do not be put off by the title. The Man in the Woman’s Shoes is not a corny and tacky drag show. It doesn’t ‘drag’ at all, in any sense of the word, despite its slow start. If I was put off by a measured and restrained beginning, this was soon enough replaced by an increasing sense of wonder and amazement at Mikel Murfi, one man with a few props, who ends up acting almost all the parts of an entire rural community into what eventually becomes a turbo-charged and frenetic penultimate scene.
It needs a bit of patience, for sure, but never so much that it becomes trying, though I note an unashamed very loud sigh from someone sat in the stalls about a third of the way through this one-act show. The latter half, after the scene setting and introduction of various characters and their personalities and quirks are all established, is all the more rewarding. “Good things come to those who wait,” or so a strapline for Guinness used to assert, and our endurance here is rewarded in what becomes quite a tour de force performance, as Murfi’s Pat Farnon continues his journey – both a physical and metaphorical trip – around his neck of the Irish countryside.
What strikes me is how easy it was to follow. Perhaps this has something to do with various characters being larger than life, but I didn’t get the feeling there was anything not credible, aside from the odd opinion from a character, and even this usually served to add to the comic effect of the piece. There are some interesting observations peppering the narrative, such as the ones quoted above. Here’s another: generally speaking – pun acknowledged – people talk an awful lot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those who speak a lot actually get to know each other below surface level.
Elsewhere, it’s laugh-out-loud funny. Pat’s muteness means that the monologue we hear is actually his thoughts, so there’s never any need to feel guilty in being complicit in listening in to a personal opinion that none of the other characters will ever know about. And the woman’s shoes? They’re there. How else is Mikel Murfi supposed to walk the walk as well as talk the talk of a lady friend of Pat Farnon?
Things got a little risqué at times, but never smutty or offensive. In other words, it was all rather pleasant. Even his muteness is treated with kindness and sensitivity by his friends and acquaintances. And despite all that life has thrown at Pat, there’s a very hopeful and delightful ending that manages to be uplifting without being overly sentimental or clichéd, sending the discerning Tricycle Theatre crowd back out on to the Kilburn High Road with springs in their steps, smiles on their faces and much to discuss and reminisce. It’s difficult to say much more about this short and sweet piece without potentially running into spoiler territory, but I will say this. It’s utterly delightful and very charming, and an absolute pleasure to see.
Review by Chris Omaweng
LOCO and RECKLESS PRODUCTIONS in association with TRICYCLE THEATRE present
The Man in The Woman’s Shoes
A one man show written and performed by Mikel Murfi
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.
Written, performed and directed by Mikel Murfi
Producer: Eithne Hand for Loco and Reckless Productions Ltd
Monday 4th April 2016 – Saturday 23rd April 2016