Friday, August 14, 2015

Strong women in a modern financial morality tale with laughs: Fly me To the Moon in the Lyric Theatre (until 22 August)

Marie Jones' two-handed farcical morality play Fly Me To The Moon is back in Belfast, this time on the stage of the Lyric Theatre. Davy Magee is an older gentleman who is recovering from a stroke and lives on his own in a bungalow. His speech has been reduced to moans, and his mobility is poor. Loretta and Francis are two of his regular care workers.

Francis (played by Katie Tumelty) is quick to see money-making opportunities. She's harshly suspicious of her boyfriend, but proudly lauds her entrepreneurial son who swans round in a shiny suit selling dodgy DVDs. Loretta (Tara Lynne O'Neill) has a heart of gold. She goes the extra mile for her house-bound clients. And under her own roof, she displays a surprising amount of empathy for her husband, an unemployed bricklayer who has swapped his trowel for the TV remote and a phone to call into daytime gameshows.

After two years of changing Davy's sheets, taking him to the toilet, collecting his pension and putting his bets on at the bookies they've really left it too late to find out about his background, his loves and his life. But do they deserve the high regard with which Davy secretly holds these two angels of mercy?

Presented with the chance to make a small profit at the expense of a dead man, the pair begin to slip down a criminal slide with no way to arrest their descent. Every time Francis says "Just hear me out ..." Loretta's ethical instincts are piqued before being quickly overridden by real world problems that a few more quid in her purse would solve.

One ruse leads to another and the women's crisis multiplies: by four o'clock in the afternoon the two care workers should be wondering how soon they will be swapping their green work clothes for prison uniforms. While the colleagues normally get on like a house on fire, the stressed circumstances begin to stretch their relationship.

As well as setting up a situation of escalating deceit and an examination of legacy, Marie Jones' play sets the audience up to assess the financial and social pressures facing working class families with examples of claim culture, questioning the cost and value of a child going through grammar school and spotlighting an expectation culture that is so hard to fund.

Some of the Lyric audience giggled their way through every funny retort that ping ponged between the two talented actors that were so at ease with the script. Others failed to choke back their laughter at the most inappropriate moments. (And one punter emptied their packet of Skittles over the floor.)

The content is both humorous and disturbing. There's an extended moment of John Cleese Ministry of Silly Walks performed in a wheelchair that is simultaneously hilarious physical humour and uncomfortable to watch.

With Frank Sinatra covers playing in the auditorium before the show starts, and "There may be trouble ahead" bursting in so appropriately as the interval lights fade up, Davy's love of Ol' Blue Eyes will be passed on to you by the time you leave the theatre. The see-through set works well and the actors never cheat by looking at each other through the invisible walls.

If you're ever trapped in a lift with Tara Lynne O'Neill and Katie Tumelty, ask them to tell you the story of the two care workers and Davy. You're sure to wet yourself laughing (or drop your Skittles). In the meantime, head down to the Lyric Theatre before 22 August to catch Fly Me To The Moon to see two great performers on the Danske Bank Stage before it transfers to Gaiety Theatre in Dublin from 2 to 19 September.

1 comment:

Wondering said...

I enjoyed seeing the world through the eyes of two hard-working women, and wondering wbout the judgments the audience were being asked to make... Love and laughter, passion and pragmatism, hope and helplessness.