Thursday, April 26, 2018

Preview: Rosemary Jenkinson’s Michelle & Arlene: Love in Las Vegas (Accidental Theatre, 10-12 May)

Rosemary Jenkinson embraced rapid reaction plays last year with a series of productions which were written, rehearsed and staged within weeks rather than the normal process of months and years.

Michelle & Arlene: Love in Las Vegas is the third instalment of satirical adventures of the former First and deputy First Ministers as they seek to find political agreement. (And Arlene met Trump at Christmas too.) The fine foemance have previously spent time in Ibiza and travelling through Europe, but you don’t need to have seen the previous episodes to pick up the story.

The first show was quite a risk as it relied on the NI Executive remaining out of action. The possibility that the institutions could be restored could have jeopardised the short run: this year, that risk doesn’t seem so real. Instead it’s nearly as if there’s a war of attrition between the satirising playwright and the political parties: one continuing to tease the others while they remain reluctant to find agreement and restoration.

“This one particularly has got more anger in it because of the arts cuts” says Rosemary. “During the Good Friday Agreement events, Arlene Foster tweeted about her pride in the building works going on across the city. It’s like she thinks that a country’s worth is valued by its themed hotels or whatever. A country’s worth is valued by its art and culture and that ignorance infuriates me. So there’s a little more bite to this one.”

This show is inspired by the recent political remembering. Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster have agreed to lose their party colleagues and advisors and travel alone to the US to have intensive talks. But as usual, one thing leads to another, and they end up in Las Vegas with hilarious consequences.
“Politicians love an American junket! In the play it’s a metaphor for the way that internationalism pulls you into looking outside yourself. Distance helps people come to an agreement. If they actually did go to America it would probably be a very good thing to get the blinkers off. Inside our country we’re so caught up in our green and orange dynamic that you need to go outside and see the big picture of what we’re not doing.”
Common to all three plays is the ability for the two political leaders to work together, particular when their backs are up against the wall and they need to rely on each other.
“My sense is that they like each other … and can do deals. It’s almost as if their parties pull back their individual desires to do business. Hence the need to take them away on their own [in the plays].”

Unless – or until – there is political progress, Rosemary says that she’s unlikely to write a fourth instalment.
“I’m not going to keep on lampooning the same things just because they are out. I need them to engage more politically to have real life material to bounce off.”
Writing about contemporary politics is a joy.
“It’s great doing political work because it’s constantly feeding you. With the ongoing RHI inquiry, I’m constantly having to do rewrites. It’s quite exciting for me to be under that pressure to reflect society, something that wouldn’t happen in a normal play. It keeps me on my toes which I love.”

Is the motivation around embarrassment, education or entertainment?
“My ethos is that it’s a light, entertaining play. The satire in it doesn’t beat you over the head. It’s deliciously barbed and takes up Oscar Wilde’s notion of ‘a trivial comedy for serious people’. So the intentions are entirely serious, but the view of it is to be incredibly funny and a great night’s entertainment. It’s not throw away like a review sketch night. It is a properly built play with a journey that will entertain people.”

While the two political figures at the centre of the drama might find the material rude, pass remarkable, and even insulting, Rosemary says that the jokes and barbs are based on real comments and reporting. Previous plays picked up on Arlene Foster’s comments in an interview when she described Michelle O’Neill as “blonde” and “attractive”.
“A lot of that stuff stems from truthful words. I don’t put things in that really don’t have a basis in reality. Something sparks it off [and] it’s not just me deciding to have a little stereotypical joke here.”

Maria Connolly and Mary-Frances Doherty have played Arlene and Michelle in all three shows. The first was written before anyone was cast. But since then the playwright has been able to craft the text around the actors present each character.
“When I write for them I know where I’m going to put particular little mannerisms and verbal ticks. It’s heightened Arlene’s disapproving mannerisms in the way that Maria picked up on them. Mary-Frances laughed a lot as Michelle. And Maria loves singing, so I’ve put in more songs.”
While Maria would love a Michelle & Arlene musical, this third show is a good compromise, with the characters travelling to Las Vegas.

She loves the liberation of the rapid response format and the flexibility of the Accidental Theatre space. “I can phone Richard Laverty and just like that we can take off any time. There’s no other director who would put shows up so quickly. It’s incredibly stressful on the actors and on the director. They do it because they love it but it’s still very difficult to do.”

The lack of set, minimal props, very simple lighting, lack of radio mics does remove a lot of the complexity of modern theatre. I wonder whether it’s a little like Shakespeare in the Globe Theatre with people sitting around the stage, up close as the actors do their thing, work off the audience and ruthlessly send up what the playwright sees and finds annoying?
“I like that comparison because there is a rawness and the actors are exposed. I know both Maria and Mary-Frances absolutely love it because it feels more live and more exciting that close to the audience with nothing for them to hide behind or rely on. They really respond to that basic visceral theatre.”
With Brexit and referenda never far from the news, there are plenty of topics that Rosemary could dip into for future work. But in the meantime, her next book of short stories Catholic Boy will be launched tonight in the Lyric Theatre. A sample story Revival that references Alex Higgins can be downloaded on Amazon.  (Aphrodite's Kiss was published two years ago and is still in print.)

2018 has started strongly for Rosemary Jenkinson. May The Road Rise Up (reviewed) has just finished its NI tour with C21 Theatre, and Lives in Translation (reviewed) which premièred at Belfast International Arts Festival also went back out on the road with Kabosh.
“It’s great to finally get another book out. It’s such a different world, from theatre: more sedate and civilised. With a play you’re always thinking of the audience and the actors and making it easy for them in some ways – or sometimes more difficult – but you’re thinking of other people. I love that it’s just me and the page with short stories: I don’t have to worry about pleasing people ... except the editor!”
Though with a book tour to do, the playwright does have to step out onto the stage for once as a writer and perform readings and answer questions. That’s a reversal of roles?

Rosemary laughs. “I do edit the stories [when I’m reading them out]. If there’s a passage that’s maybe too descriptive it will go because I understand the nature of performing. My only problem is that I’m never confident enough to put on accents for the dialogue! I’m not an actor. I can read but for acting you need total confidence and self-abandonment and I don’t have that. But I might improve …”

Tickets are now on sale for performances of Michelle & Arlene: Love in Las Vegas at 8pm on Thursday 10 to Saturday 12 May in Accidental Theatre’s latest home at 12-13 Shaftesbury Square, right under the big screen.

Mural painted by Jonny McKerr

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Titanic The Musical – a riveting show with a busy yet well-crafted story and an enormous cast (Grand Opera House until Saturday 28 April)

Squeezing the story of the Titanic’s maiden voyage into two hours and twenty minutes of theatre is no mean feat. Within fifteen minutes of musical director Mark Aspinall raising his baton, Titanic The Musical pulls out of Southampton harbour having introduced the architect, owner and captain along with a few crew members and the different classes of passengers.

Factoids about the dimensions and provisions are sung. The aisles of the stalls are used to give a feeling of length to David Woodhead’s largely flat set which consists of a two level gantry with metal steps on wheels that become quite a distraction with their constant movement after the interval.

Previous Titanic-related productions I’ve reviewed have concentrated on the building of the structure (The Boat Factory) or the inquiry held after its sinking (Scenes from the British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry, 1912). This one just tackles the voyage.

The ensemble cast of 25 belt out the four, five and perhaps even six part harmonies that Maury Yeston has penned. In places, it’s nearly more operatic than musical theatre. The Morse Code riff was a noble way of explaining the Marconi operators. The best tune in the score – Godspeed Titanic – is cleverly reprieved at the end, lifting the emotion out of tragedy and back towards hope. The score’s success is not in crafting hummable tunes but in the way it sets of the mood for each scene. Elaborate violin bowing and frantic harpsichord playing on top of the deep cello tones are all very effective. Post collision, the cacophonous score ratcheted up the sense of panic.

Unusually for the Grand Opera House, the front of house PA is distributed with smaller speakers dotted across the auditorium. It definitely helped with the clarity and diction of the voices, but at times the volume of singing and position of the actors around the stage and aisles seemed to trigger feedback: but that’ll be quickly ironed out. More concerning was the noticeable whirring sound coming from somewhere above the audience’s heads during the quiet scenes: something up there has a very noisy fan. Howard Hudson’s lighting design cast some great shadows, with the upper railings creating a moving bow on the curtain below.
“God himself couldn’t sink this ship”

Subwoofers powerfully transmitted the collision of steel and ice throughout the stalls, though the sinking was very quiet and listless other than one final moment when the set sprung to life. Playing Kate McGowan (one of the three Kates), Victoria Serra’s voice soared high above the rest of the cast in the ensemble numbers. The sweet Straus family (Dudley Rogers and Judith Street) provided the most moving moment of the performance, though there was a poignancy to a memorial scene towards the show’s conclusion.

Director Thom Southerland never allows the myth of Titanic to overshadow the individual stories of passengers and crew. Despite the large cast and even larger set of characters, each is given space to weave their own tale into the overall fabric of the familiar narrative. (The scene in which two officers flap their arms like birds is one moment when the choreography loses its way.)

Having never quite fully jumped aboard the Titanic centenary bandwagon, I needed to be won round to why the world needed another nautical stage show. The quality of the storytelling shone through. Peter Stone’s book jams in a lot of moving parts with an analysis of class, the upstairs downstairs nature of the ship’s crew (though the tale of those below decks is the least well told aspect of the story), as well as the onboard tensions around the owner’s ambition for a speedy crossing.

The Thomas Andrews/J Bruce Ismay/Captain Edward Smith triangle and their fingerpointing number The Blame was particularly well observed, with Simon Green playing the owner towering above everyone else’s contradiction, and Philip Rham getting caught up in the safety-averse competitive race across the Atlantic. Italian-born Greg Castiglioni played Thomas Andrews with a fabulous Belfast accent.

“It could’ve been crass but it wasn’t” was how I phrased it to the Belfast Telegraph’s David Young during the interval. It’s much better than I expected: riveting in places and never dull.

Titanic the Musical is at the Grand Opera House until Saturday 28 April.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tender Napalm - dark, unsettling, ambiguous but thought-provoking dystopia (Lyric Theatre until Saturday 21 April)

Philip Ridley’s 2011 play Tender Napalm drops the audience into an unnamed couple’s disturbing relationship. Actors Emer McDaid and Gavin Peden walk onto a stage that’s naked except for 10 white stools and a clothes rail. As Woman and Man they begin a verbal duel, shooting elaborate poetic insults at each other based around parts of the other’s body. The language and imagery quickly turns violent, physically and at times sexually.

Soon the parrying switches to another game. The aloof couple are marooned on a desert island. Letting their imaginations roam free they make up stories that revolve around the destruction of the other. Man tells a superhero tale of fighting a sea serpent which is as tall as three double decker buses. Woman imagines armies of little monkeys who help lock her Man in a cave. Over 100 minutes, bombs, unicorns and even UFOs are added to the presumed make-believe universe.

The pair’s games have rules. Each new chapter in the story cannot contradict previous canon. Ever more elaborate escapes are invented to recover from near fatal cliff hangers. Weaved into this fantasy is what could be the couple’s origin story. The truth is never clear. Ridley presents the dialogue and leaves those listening to rationalise what they are hearing. There are some clues that hint at traumatic events in their childhood, mental illness or perhaps violent loss as a couple.

Despite the intimate language, there is little intimacy between the couple, other than the echo of long gone better times. We’re watching an ex-couple, two people who have moved beyond tenderness to inhabit a world where they go round in circles dropping napalm on each other. The word ‘naked’ is so often repeated in the script that it becomes a Chekhov's gun that fails to be fired: what might be an almost deliberate shying away from anything sensual adds mystery to the narrative. (To be fair, I think I saw a whole year’s worth of – mostly male – nudity in the Lyric’s Naughton Studio in February alone.)

While the plot is ambiguous and disquieting, the quality of the acting cannot be questioned. The young pair are in total control of their unusual situation. Gavin Peden leaps around the stools like a caped crusader and petulantly interrupts Woman’s stories. He combines Man’s bouncy boyish nature with an aggressive streak while Emer McDaid is less harsh as Woman, calm and assertive with just a hint of menace (particularly when she holds the garden shears) right up until the point her character caves in. Director Breman Rajkumar has created an unfussy choreography that makes good use of the empty space and invites the audience into some of the scenes.
Contre un bon repas chaud / Nous prenait une toile / Nous récitions des vers / Groupés autour du poêle / En oubliant l'hiver

Other than a blast of the rather apt La Bohème by Charles Aznavour, the only sound effects are the metallic noise of white stools being moved or knocked over. The challenge for the cast of Tender Napalm is to make people believe that the relationship was once viable despite the nasty rhetoric and to keep the paying public hooked while the clues are slowly laid out on the bare stage.

When the actors change costumes at one point and travel back in time they both look and sound noticeable younger. Two lesser actors might have struggle with the stripped back set or sound, but McDaid and Peden deliver performances that are rich and magnetic. While I’m not sure any two people leaving the theatre will agree on what story was being told, In the Moment Productions have put on a thought-provoking and unsettling piece of dystopian drama.

Tender Napalm continues at the Lyric Theatre until Saturday 21 April.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Abigail’s Party – a great production of a classic play with lush performances to match the 1970s décor! (The MAC until 5 May)

Into an orange and brown set that accurately captured trendy late 1970s décor strides Beverly, decked out in a floaty dress from similarly warm-toned material. A modern woman confident in her white shag pile rug-covered environment, slowly shimmying around the room setting out cheesy nibbles and making sure the drinks cabinet is in order.

Beverly’s husband Laurence is a hard-working estate agent with an faux penchant for the finer things of life (art, books and classical music) while his wife’s social climbing is rooted in more shallow pursuits.

Into their modern abode – brilliantly created by designer Diana Ennis – come new neighbours, a young couple Angela and Tony, and neighbour Sue whose unseen fifteen year old daughter Abigail is hosting a party next door.

What follows is a brilliantly observed examination of competitive aspiration, gender politics, and the culture of misogyny: a window into 1977 that still reflects into 2018 society. The radio news bulletin that acts as a prologue to the play hints that membership of the European Community/Common Market and sex discrimination and equal pay legislation were issues at the time.

Mike Leigh’s 1977 play Abigail’s Party opened in Hampstead Theatre before an abridged recording was broadcast as Play for Today on BBC One. The MAC’s production stays true to the Essex accents and lets the themes within the story resonate while resisting the attempt to shift the story to Northern Ireland. (Though the set with its low seating and sideboards standing on spindly wooden legs do remind me of a house I visited as a child.)

Roisin Gallagher is at the core of every scene, never swerving in mannerism or accent as she plies her guests with often unwanted food and drink, abbreviating everyone’s name (other than her husband’s) to a single syllable, finishing every sentence with a question (“Don’t you agree with me Ang?”) and slowly losing her inhibitions as she gives way to the influence of alcohol and frustration. It’s a flawless performance that anchors the discomfort that director Richard Croxford creates on stage.

Laurence (played by Will Irvine) at first seems like a hen-pecked, later ill-suited husband whose patience is eventually stretched beyond breaking point with consequences. Brigid Shine plays a diminutive Angela who is full of chat but is definitely under the thumb of her often monosyllabic husband Tony who replies to most questions with ‘yeah’.

Like cracks on a wall, tensions between partners grow over the evening. But the wildcard on stage that acts as a quite catalyst is Susan, played brilliantly by Imogen Slaughter. Other than being a single mother previously married to an architect, Susan has no backstory. However, the ambiguity which Slaughter injects into the role leaves the audience longing for more information about why she is quite so uncomfortable as Beverly and Angela bombard her with questions about her past and her plans for the future. There’s always a hint that there’s something we’re not being told.

As the alliances and annoyances rotate around the five-some, Abigail’s Party turns into a fascinating character study. Music of the time is frequently referenced and the record player sitting in the metal framed bookcase is put to good use.

Angela’s dancing deserves a special mention as Brigid Shine once again proves that her character will try to do things for which she is totally unskilled. It’s a beautiful moment in a play that ends with Beverley taking a bow still with a glass in her hand.

Abigail’s Party is definitely the most entertaining play I’ve seen on a Belfast stage so far this month. It pulls off laughs without reducing the complexity of the on-stage relationships which are great fun to pick apart at the interval and the end. A great production of a classic play. Abigail’s Party continues at the MAC until Saturday 5 May. Catch it before Beverly drinks the bar dry …

Photo credit: Melissa Gordon

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Colleen Bawn – Oirish melodrama given the full Bruiser treatment (Bruiser + Lyric Theatre until 28 April)

A fair maiden – Eily O’Connor, nicknamed the Colleen Bawn – lives on the other side of the lake. The man, Hardress, to whom she is secretly married plans to marry another, Anne, since his first wife’s use of the vernacular ill-befits his social standing. A friend Kyrle has long carried a flame for Anne. And Hardress’ mother has a problem with her mortgage which could see them all homeless unless she repays the twisted magistrate landowner, or accepts his hand in marriage.

Throw in a hunchbacked servant Danny who reckons one of the chess pieces could be permanently lifted off the board, a stray shot and a happy ending and you’ve got a convoluted tale based on a true story that was adapted into Gerald Griffin’s novel The Collegians.

First performed in 1850 in New York, Dion Boucicault’s melodrama The Colleen Bawn has been given the full Bruiser treating, with seven cast members playing many more characters with instant costume changes, quick asides to the audience, props thrown across the stage and scene changes that are nearly a rapid fire as the dialogue.

The first half is peppered with on-stage music from the cast of seven with three guitars, fiddle, flute, piano, tin whistles, percussion and great harmony voices injecting gusto into the plot that swirls around the audiences brains unless they’ve read the synopsis beforehand. The issues of class and dialect surrounding secret wife Eily drive the contemporary commentary stirred up by the play, and the reprise after the interval is incredibly useful to reduce the brain power being consumed by piecing together the story to begin to analyse what is going on underneath the dialogue.

The live music mostly disappears in the second half with Matthew Reeve’s soundtrack taking over and Grace Smart’s oak-beamed, low-ceilinged set providing the novelty.

(Though the script’s mention of no moon seemed to be contradicted moments later by the painted backcloth in the boat scene.)

The ensemble is incredibly tight and Lisa May’s direction creates a focus for each scene despite the majority of the cast staying on stage during the full performance.

Patrick McBrearty’s Danny carries the most pleasing west-coast accent. With a simple twirl, Cavan Clarke morphs from double-dating Hardress into the unorthodox Father Tom.Enda Kilroy bounds around the stage with a comedy-sized top hat worn at a jaunty angle like a superhero playing the local magistrate and wannabe detective.

Maeve Smyth captures the grace and simplicity of Eily, and is probably a little more ‘Colleen Ruaidh’ than dark-haired Colette Lennon Dougal (Anne) whose character attracts this moniker and is played with a spirit of always looking on the bright side. Jo Donnelly steals scenes and with her eyes and her great sense of comic timing.

Today’s Sunday matinee audience probably contributed to the performance being more sober than farcical. The overall the pace was much more comfortable than Bruiser’s overly manic The 39 Steps and it was an amazing choice of script to show off what Bruiser can do to bring out the jest and joy in a play.

The Colleen Bawn runs until Saturday 28 April and is a co-production between the Lyric Theatre and Bruiser Theatre Company. In a week that saw Bruiser Theatre lose 85% of its Arts Council grant, this quality production once again proves the company’s pedigree and distinctive place in the NI theatre sector.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Further Shore (Poetry Ireland at Lyric Theatre) #GFA20

I’m not a big fan of poetry. It requires far too much concentration to parse the phrases, summon up the imagery and look into the often obtuse mind of the poet in order to get any understanding out of the words. All that sustained effort rather kills what joy might have been encapsulated into the original stanzas.

But last night’s A Further Shore event at the Lyric Theatre wasn’t a chore or hard work. The medley of spoken word and song used a range of work which remembered incidents and ways of living during the Troubles and gradually worked up to the negotiations and the 1998 Agreement.

Instead it was a nuanced and at times moving remembrance of past times. Not so balanced to become boring, but carefully seeded with surprise and honesty in the many perspectives it opened up to the packed theatre audience and those watching RTE’s live stream.

Alan Gillis’ Progress began the process of time travel, followed by words from John Hewitt, Seamus Heaney, Gerald Dawe, Gráinne Tobin, Colette Vryce, Ciaran Carson, Rita Ann Higgins amongst many others as atrocities and attitudes were explored and “the book of the dead became fatter and fatter”.

Directed by Lynne Parker and produced by Poetry Ireland for the Government of Ireland, A Further Shore featured Irish actors – few of whom are strangers to the Lyric stage – who performed the snippets of work: Cathy Belton, Richard Clements, Ellen Cranitch, Niall Cusack, Peter Hanly, Darragh Kelly, Frankie McCafferty, Abigail McGibbon, Neil Martin, Eleanor Methven (who devised the show), Carol Moore, Tara Lynne O’Neill, Stephen Sexton and Francis Tomelty joined by Linda Ervine.

Kevin Doherty and the Telegraph Band added warmth and a gentle rhythm to the reflections, playing a handful of songs dotted throughout the two hour programme, with And the Band Played On a particularly apt finale. When are they next back playing in Belfast?

“How far back would we want to wind the clock back to avoid the conflict?” asked the narrator, veteran journalist Olivia O’Leary. Her monologues deliberately left questions at the doors of previous Irish or British governments.

Projected press photographs and images of paintings accompanied the words. “Be careful not to patronise the Irish” was sung with gusto as the red white and blue Union Flag slowly turned green white and orange. There was humour amongst the sombre contemplation with the yes-ishness of Moyra Donaldson’s Ulster Says No hitting home.

“The language of peace is difficult and it’s taking us – all of us – a long time to learn it” remarked O’Leary as the journey pulled up at the 1994 ceasefires and the poetry and music gave way to a short address by Tánaiste Simon Coveney who described the performance as “powerful, funny, tragic and evocative” which “reflected on our shared journey towards this extraordinary short” while acknowledging that “we face the challenges of our own time”.

While Peter Robinson is speaking on a panel at today’s QUB event marking the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, there was an absence of DUP attendance at last night’s event in keeping with their anti-Agreement stance.

The most sustained applause of the evening was given to Senator George Mitchell who briefly reflected on the “700 days of failure and one day of success” that characterised the five years of negotiations that he chaired. He finished by asking “Can we leave the past behind? Can we rekindle the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement”

Cross-posted from Slugger O'Toole.

Friday, April 06, 2018

The Jazzabelles - climbing a steep and rocky hill to the Floral Hall (Lyric Theatre until 7 April +tour)

Three women step out from their dreary lives to form a close harmony singing trio amidst an atmosphere of misogyny, lascivious lyrics, gay bashing and religious zeal. It could be a piece of musical theatre set in 2018, but it’s not. The Jazzabelles tells the story of 1950s Belfast-women Prissy, Vera and Ella.

Prissy by name and nature – the character, not the actress! – Rosie Barry (in real life, one third of The Swingtime Starlets) plays a bored housewife whose talents and ambitions are stifled by her overbearing scripture-quoting husband Jack (Neil Keery). Vera (Ciara Mackey, an impressive Lady of the Lake in Spamalot and  runs a dance academy and is underwhelmed by the mediocre students who audition. And Ella (Claire McCartney) sashays her way around the offices she cleans, longing to be singing into a mic on the stage at the Floral Hall rather than making do with a mop.

Nick Boyle wrote the words and music and leads the three piece band (piano, bass, drums) that play to one side of the stage. Each woman is provoked into reconsidering their options, with a solo song to accompany their change of heart and the sudden formation of the group.

As Prissy tells her husband, it is all very narratively expedient: “went to a bar, met some girls, formed a trio and got a manager”. The manager in question is a velvet jacket wearing, smooth talking impresario Vince played by Stephen Beggs.

As you’d expect, the road to musical success is uneven and full of potholes. The discomfort Prissy feels while singing about ‘Honey Hips’ is nothing compared to an unexpectedly large protest that invades the theatre. Then throw in some blackmail, gay bashing and a reformed gambler who is a walking reminder that “the whiter the sepulchre, the dirtier the secrets inside”.

The staging and Neil Keery's direction are conservative with three mini-sets relegated to the back wall of the theatre: an office, a living room and a dance school. The costumes are vintage and period choreography is very convincing. Dan Leith steals the first half when pianist and lothario Rod solos ‘I fall in love too readily’, redeeming an earlier scene shared with McCartney which is surely the most deliberately excruciating example of courting in Lyric history.

While there’s a sprinkling of humour throughout, SkinnyBone Theatre's musical falters a little due to its pedestrian script that treads water with flat dialogue between songs and only really delivers a couple of dramatic moments well into the second half that make the audience buy into the characters. Some of the tunes also ill-fit the singers’ voices, with repeated changes of register curtailing their vocal power.

The casts’ accurate depiction of their depressed and suppressed characters mean that the early close harmony singing lacks a lot of the joy and verve one would expect if this had been a concert rather than a musical play.

In the final numbers, however, all three women can truly smile, let go and give it their all in the reprieve of the catchy 'Jazzabelle Swing' that you’ll be humming as you leave the Naughton Studio.

The Jazzabelles is a fun vehicle for three great voices. It runs in the Lyric Theatre until Saturday 7 April [SOLD OUT] and then tours through Down Arts Centre (Friday 13 April), Armagh Market Place Theatre (Saturday 14) and The Old Courthouse Theatre, Antrim (Friday 20).