By Conor O’Neill
A full house greets the three women and two men of The Gap Year, a play written by Clare McMahon. And boy are we in for a ride. In this co production by The Lyric Theatre and Comedy of Errors, we are indeed treated to a comedy, but not one without pain. The laughs are equalled by touching trials of life.
Of course, we start with a funeral. Jean’s (Carol Moore) husband only went and died on her. Yet instead of playing the grieving widow, as her daughter Catherine (Meghan Tyler) wishes she would, Jean plans to have a gap year. Australia, the south east of Asia, Europe? Nah, none of the above. Jean and her two buddies, Oonagh (Marion Dwyer) and Roisin (Libby Smyth) decide to visit all 32 counties of Ireland.
All in their sixties and all with their worries, the three head off. They see the cathedrals of Down, the walls of Derry and get tipsy in Tyrone, and stuck in their collective craw is death, ‘Sure, we’re all in the waiting room’.
Escaping the three C’s of life, ‘Cooking, cleaning and cooking’ the three soon move from the domestic to the frantic. Whether it be a hitchhiking nun, pub quizzes, a truss with a toy-boy, a 24-year-old love-crazed Dubliner screaming ‘I gave him the best years of my life’ or a dodgy used car salesman, the three get into and out of laughable scrapes… most of the time.
The set is simple, the changes seamless, the music apt. Director Benjamin Gould gets the best of all six cast members. This play may be about three women in their sixties but the supporting members more than play their part. Keith Singleton plays four roles, Meghan Tyler plays six and the lovable Frankie McCafferty another half dozen. The tempo is fast from the start, yet after the interval things slow a little. There’s more introspection, fewer laughs but The Gap Year is more than simple giggles.
The journey leads to revelations, awkward moments, feelings of sisterly love and so much more. No spoilers here but the final minutes are sure to bring a lump to your throat. Writer Clare McMahon finds that sweet spot between hilarity and humility.
This is a must-see play.
The Gap Year runs at the Lyric up to and including September 25th. For times and booking information visit http://www.lyrictheatre.co.uk or simply phone 02890 381081