By Conor O’Neill
As part of the summer’s Feile an Phobail festival 2022, Belfast’s Lyric Theatre proudly brings us writers and actors Conor Grimes and Alan McKee’s St Mungos The Ladies. Not to be out done by the Lionesses’ success in the recent Euros, the writing pair, under the direction of Ciaran Nolan – of ‘Em Two Balloons’ fame – opens a door into the fascinating world of women’s GAA.
And who better to represent the ladies of possibly the worst GAA club in living memory than Belfast’s favourite blonde ball-of-fun Caroline Curran of Fifty Shades of Red, White and Blue infamy.
For those of you who’ve possibly been following Grimes and McKee’s YouTube antics of St Mungos for the last few years, or maybe saw the tele show that aired in recent months, then you’ll be familiar with the set up. Chairman McKee and vice chairman Grimes weave improbable tales of behind the scenes action of the fictional town of Luganulk’s Gaelic football team.
And you’ll be delighted to know all the favourites are here. From the bumbling two central characters to those on the periphery, they all get a crack of the whip. Father Fintan makes an appearance, rip-off merchant and the man with the notoriously bad back Davy the Drip plays his part, sponsor Patsy Armstrong is still bailing the club out, the historical society is still boring the community to death and the club lotto is surprisingly still without a winner. Put simply, all is comically unwell at the club.
But orders from above change the two chairs’ position for the worst. Croke Park itself has ordered expansion of the ladies’ game throughout the male-centric world of GAA. St Mungos is to have a ladies team.
Elevated from merely keeping the tuck-shop and washing the kits, the women of Luganulk are now to be granted full equality. Something the men of the club are none too happy about. And here we have an new host of characters: most obviously Dearbhla McDermott (Caroline Curran) who is the star of the team and has represented the county, Patsy’s wife Pauline with her titanium nails and beauty regime that sees the sponsor having to ‘slaughter 200 bullock a week’ to keep up with her refined tastes. Pauline has a ‘no doe no show’ policy and Patsy duly delivers. Local pervert Humphrey Bumphrey the public relations officer and club photographer – whose soon on his second memory card, as the ladies ‘are much more photogenic’ – psychotic Martina is counting up the amount of hydrochloric acid to dissolve her hubby’s corpse, the mysterious woman from Mayo Bridge and too many more to mention.
We the audience are treated as the committee at the regular and farcical committee meetings and the fourth wall is broken more than once. With the three on stage inhabiting so many characters you’ll have to be on your wits to keep up, but the good news is it’s a hoot from start to finish. The audience are in tears, and on more than one occasion it gets too much for Conor Grimes who can be seen switching from one character to the next in stitches of laughter.
The women are soon out-playing the men and make it to the quarter final of the cup. All is not well at the club, the sponsorship money can only go so far and Patsy is left in an impossible situation; the women’s fundraising is surpassing the men’s. Equality comes at a price.
Stand out scenes to watch out for is the Scor, a talent show like no other, Davy the Drip’s trip to the Woman from Mayo Bridge, the flag scene, committee announcements, especially the one about the Thai Chi classes being postponed indefinitely, the mini-bus’s MOT plea and of course the weekly lotto draws.
If you fancy and hour and a bit laughing until your stomach hurts, then St Mungos The Ladies is for you.
The best piece of comic theatre I’ve saw in years.
The show runs at the Lyric up to and including August 21. There are matinees Saturday and Sunday and tickets cost between £12 and £18.
To book yours simply phone the box office on 02890 381081 or visit http://www.lyrictheatre.co.uk
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