Mojo Mickybo: theatre review, streamed from The Lyric Theatre, Belfast, June 24, 2021

By Conor O’Neill

“From Belfast to Bolivia and no pissing on the seats.” Any play with such a clean, devastatingly brilliant and twisted line is sure to catch my attention.

The usual rule is to write a draft a bit after the show, go to sleep and tidy it up in the morning. Not tonight. I’m literally minutes from watching Bruiser’s Mojo Mickybo and I want to get my thoughts down quick.

Streamed live from Belfast’s Lyric Theatre, within minutes, no, seconds, I was enthralled. The Lyric’s stage felt alive as the digital backdrop screamed violence. Any one who watched the news during the Troubles will recognise such daily, recurring images.

1970, Belfast. The Lyric’s mainstage has corrugated iron to the rear of the set; to the fore is ramps and scraps of wood, a digital screen drapes against the back of the stage. As with most Bruiser shows, I expected nothing more than the stark stage. And why change what’s not broken?

Director and producer, Lisa May’s crafty hand has made this tiny set a planet. The only restriction is your imagination. Two actors, one tight-as-a-Lambeg-drum-script, the hush of an empty theatre and the eye drags to the frantic world of Mojo and Mickybo.

From the off the two actors work with some sort of sublime symmetry that could only come from hours of rehearsal;, or the two have acted together before. There’s energy from the start, the script demands it. You couldn’t slur or relax with such words, the actors spit them. Michael Condron plays Mojo, Terry Keeley making for a brilliant Mickybo.

The scat-like-lines between the both are so clever you want to hear better and lean closer, yet bombastic enough to make you want to just sit back and enjoy the pure swing of the voices. Obviously, the synopsis runs round the pair, but fleshing this piece out is the tapestry of side characters. Be it the Major guarding the bonfire, aunt Rita smelling of bleach, messed up mothers, fathers, a line from Spiderman, Superman, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and leaping last but not least, Kangarooman.

Characters change so often it is at some stages hard to follow, but you know you’re only one line away from getting back on track. Yet, all is not fun and games. Writer Owen McCafferty’s wily wit is often followed by touching dialogue, monologue, narrative, direction and breaking the fourth wall, confessions.

The scenes glide together. I can’t remember if the film flowed this way. The Bruiser approach leaves actors and watchers gasping for breath.

Like every good tale, this ebbs and flows. It may be ugly at times, it’s heartbreakingly tender too. What you will feel during the closing moments is the sense of awkward completion.

If there was a crowd in the Lyric tonight, it would be on its feet and clapping its hands raw..

Must see online theatre.

For booking visit Eventbrite or http://www.lyrictheatre.co.uk

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