Friday, May 03, 2019

I Am Maura – a funny and tender coming-of-age play … with added liturgical dance (Lyric Theatre until 4 May)

Necessity is the mother of invention. The dire financial situation across the cultural and arts sector has resulted in a big increase in one and two-handed shows and multi-roled performances. It has also pushed many performers into staging their own productions outside of the larger theatre companies. And while it’s not a very sustainable way to manage the sector in the long term, some really creative gems flow out of these constraints.

One such jewel is I Am Maura, written and performed by Clare McMahon and directed by Benjamin Gould under the banner of Commedia of Errors.

It’s 2015 2005 and Maura is a fifteen-year-old school girl who faces the daily trials and tribulations of school friends in Class 4F, parents, insecurities and relationships (and the lack thereof), all while exploring and establishing an identity while teetering on the cusp of adulthood.

McMahon brings to life dozens of delightful characters, introducing each with specific gestures, smells, physical and verbal traits. She shifts from side to side acting out conversations with BFF Ali, Emer, Lacie and the rest of Class 4F as well as a series of poor boyfriend hopefuls, Michael, Christopher, Joey, hot to mention Sister Frances and countless other people who populate Maura’s world of hickeys, homework, sex-ed and bedroom conversations with her ‘total ledge-bag’ idol Martine McCutcheon. It’s a time of Bebo, MSM, and a longing for more teenage drama than life on the Antrim Road can deliver.

The set’s school-blue lockers reveal surprises behind every door. Confession with a 92-year-old neighbour Mrs Gallagher reveals the wisdom and experience of the older generation if only the young will listen and connect. The funny moments keep on coming as men in the audience learn about toilet habits they’ve never heard discussed before. And the references to liturgical dance pay off in a fabulous finale that is visually rich and crying out to be pinched by Derry Girls writer Lisa McGee.

I Am Maura is a great showcase for McMahon’s writing and performing talent. It’s also a feel-good show – ‘cute’ is how one audience member described it afterwards – that fondly remembers the best and worst of tender teenage years, and brings to life a set of characters that grow in your imagination and nearly demands a follow-up show to discover what happens to them in later life.

You can enjoy I Am Maura in the Lyric Theatre until Sunday 4 May before touring to Cushendall Golf Club on Friday 10 and Down Arts Centre on Saturday 11.

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