Saturday, December 14, 2013

Forget Turkey - sketches, songs, political satire & belly laughs - at the Lyric until 12 January

Belfast’s theatreland is full of shows about grocery stores closing down! In the Lyric, it’s Foodsides supermarket that’s having a clearance sale in the run-up to Christmas.

The show starts strongly with a musical review of the year that covers local and world events. Images are projected onto the gable wall of a house, with lyrics of some of the songs appearing to tempt the audience to join in. Politics is never far away.
"Every time someone says something [about the future] someone else goes to get a shovel to dig up the past."

Multimedia rich and packed with more laughs a minute than any show I’ve attended in years, Forget Turkey tells the story of the supermarket workers and shoppers, punctuated with a series of standalone sketches and filmed spoof adverts. Phil Crothers’ video work is excellent and while the show is technology-dependent, it never gets in the way of the real-life performance on stage.

Nothing is sacred.

The triumvirate of writers get laughs out of the most inappropriate subjects: Oscar Pistorius’ alleged murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, Jimmy Saville, the Maze/Long Kesh, the Peru Two, not to mention Gerry Adams’ forgetfulness.

Michael Condron plays a smoker in a mobility scooter and delivered some of the most apposite monologues of the evening. Amongst other characters, Maria Connolly and Jo Donnelly play a pregnant shopper and Bridie the cleaner, while Chris Robinson has perfected Artur the Polish porter with an architecture degree.

Conall McDevitt’s departure from politics along with “Anchorman” Mike Nesbitt are granted their own songs during the show. The SDLP and UUP headquarters staff should really join up to go and see it! The Nolan Show team might want to keep Stephen away from the Lyric for the next few weeks.

Willie ‘Abu Hamza’ Frazer and Jamie ‘mouth taped’ Bryson get the treatment too, along with an intimate call between ex-News International executives Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson which inspired one audience member to sway along with his cigarette lighter lit.

The banks and the churches seemed amongst the only groups to get away from the Forget Turkey spotlight. That may change as the material adapts during the month-long run.

The Mrs de BrĂșn’s Boys sketch was very popular with the audience. The pace was consistent and it was rare for a joke to fall flat. The audience giggled and tittered and belly laughed no matter which culture or politician was being lampooned throughout the two hour and a half hour performance. (And this was at an early evening show which started at 17:45!)

Audience participation is encouraged – in fact, demanded – and the four actors bounce off the audience reaction and adapt their script with glee.

You can get your photograph taken with local cardboard celebrity scenes (including that landrover) in the Lyric’s foyer. As a bonus, the programme doubles up as a 2014 calendar with scenes from the show for each month.

The language is strong throughout and it’s very much a show for a new Northern Ireland that can embrace diversity and move on from its past. The refrain in the final song seems to sum up the writers’ vision:
"The boys and girls up at the big house don’t speak for me."

Forget Turkey has seven performances a week and runs in Belfast’s Lyric Theatre until 12 January. Highly recommended if you’re not easily offended.

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