Saturday, June 11, 2016
Smiley - a comedy five a side football heist as one man tries to repay a debt (Lyric Theatre until 2 July)
Gary Mitchell’s new play Smiley looks at a society in transition where not everything is going forward. Characters bring their past lives with them into the locker room of life as they confront new problems with their old skills. The Northern Ireland allegory is kept very much in the background, so much so that for many this may only be seen as a funny heist about football.
It’s probably closer to a film script that theatre. While this shows off Liam Doona’s artificial grass set and John Comiskey’s suspended lighting array, it adds a lot of injury time to the first half.
Smiley is at its strongest at the beginning of the second half, with the plot, dialogue and directing sprinting together up the wing with an assured pace that makes up for the lateness of the evening.
Jo Donnelly revels in being monstrous, though her intimidation fails to work on Smiley’s ex-wife Elaine (played by Kerri Quinn) who temporarily reduces her threat level. Gavin Peden brings to life Smiley’s son, a consistently weedy and androgynous lad with more imagination than talent.
Ten years ago the play would most likely have featured fewer female roles: it’s a shame that the only way found to portray a woman as being confident was the use of a push-up bra and cleavage that should really apply for its own Equity Card. The gender bending is completed by Charlie (Roisin Gallagher), a successful woman footballer who is crowded out of the script by the more thuggish elements of the story.
While the stadium-like set looms darkly over the cast, at times the staging was nearly too ambitions. The clever rain effect on the bus shelter wasn’t echoed by the characters elsewhere on the stage. A phone rang on stage but the sound came from behind the audience. And the final spotlighted shadows failed to deliver the intended crisp shapes being thrown by Aaron/Elvis and Cameron (Tommy Wallace). Small niggles that may disappear during the run.
With football in the air you can catch Smiley at the Lyric Theatre until 2 July. It’s fairly likely the local teams playing in Euro 2016 will be home in time to catch a performance before Smiley’s run finishes!