Stray, The Studio Theatre, Grand Opera House, Saturday June 11, 2022, Theatre Review

By Conor O’Neill

Writer and actor, Cathal J Ferris’s Stray is a one man show with many charcaters, some of them quite hard to believe but all of them entertaining.

The Opera House’s sold out Studio Theatre only seats about 100 and is the perfect, intimate setting for this tale of a struggling actor trying to make it to the big stage, and that’s exactly what Ferris has achieved.

Born in 1988 at the height of the troubles, Ferris starts off quite aimlessly as the joker of the classroom and this gave him the perfect platform to launch into an acting career. But the road was long, and not without its troubles.

From stag weekends in Scotland, where he pulls off a perfect Glaswegian landlord’s accent to troubles with London bouncers and an escapade with eastern European stripper, to boozy nights out where one more means, “four more pints and six jagerbombs.” and a nightmarish audition for X-Factor, nothing is simple in this young man’s life.

That’s until he meets his guide and mentor, namely Maloney. The relationship with this east Belfast drama tutor is arguably the most endearing part of the script. Maloney’s mantra is, “Fight the fear and find the fun.” And boy does Ferris have some crazy fun on this rollercoaster of a ride.

An eruption in Iceland leaves him stranded in Amsterdam as volcanic ash grounds all planes, to how elocution lessons and hours of rhyming off ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’ done wonders for his love life, you’ll laugh from start to finish.

Ferris’ main achievement of this piece – not discounting he wrote and choreographed the entire show himself – is how he mixes laughter with more sombre moments. Every life has tragedy in it and Ferris gets his fair share.

But thankfully there’s more brevity than soul searching. His ‘spaghetti wilting’ scene is worth the price alone, even if he does play to the crowd a little too much. And that is my one criticism of the piece: at times it is a tad self indulgent. But how could it not be? It is after all his story, and one that’s very well told. Maybe a focused edit and shaving 10 minutes off the running time would make it a little more polished.

Will he make it on to the West End? Will he make Maloney proud? Well, this was only a one night showing, but if you ever see this play advertised scoop up a ticket as quick as you can.

In Maloney’s words, Ferris truly does, “Fight the fear and find the fun!”

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