I Am Maura, Theatre Review, Lyric Theatre, Belfast, March 10, 2023

By Conor O’Neill

It’s the early noughties, Bebo’s still the globe’s favourite social media platform and Martine McCutcheon’s This Is My Moment is still fresh, Maura should know, she has a shrine to the London singer and actress.

I Am Maura centres around, yes, you’ve guessed it, a 15-year-old school girl called Maura. Maura’s much like every other school kid. She has homework, at times doesn’t get on especially well with her mum and dad, lives in fear of being grounded, has a tyrannical head mistress and feels peer pressure just the same as every other teenager.

But there’s something different about Maura. She’s never had ‘that moment’, and oh how she yearns for it. And boy, she’s determined to find it. From the pen of playwright Clare McMahon, I Am Maura is a comedic and moving look at the strains and pains of growing up. Actor Calla Hughes takes McMahon’s script and runs with it. In 70 minutes she portrays as many characters as is possible by a sole actor and never misses a beat.

From a litany of school chums from best friend Ali, Emer, Lacey, Gráínne, Angela and a whole host more, to would-be suitors, including the militancy of Sinn Féin youth activist Joey and would-be fashion designer Christopher, to teachers Miss Gray, Mr Hill and the frightful figure that is Sister Francis, the school’s headmistress who’s stuck well back in the 1950s and the refreshing 92-year-old neighbour Mrs Gallagher, or Missus G in Maura’s parlance.

Set designer Stuart Marshall’s offering is simple yet effective. Three school lockers is enough to transport us from Maura’s bedroom, to the toilet block – a scene I’ll try hard to forget but probably never will be able to – the classroom, Mrs Gallagher’s living room and more.

Director Benjamin Gould has it all sewn up quite sweetly. The script is tight as a drum and Hughes is spot on 100 per cent of the time.

I’ve always thought it was difficult to get the Lyric’s audience to stand in ovation, but not tonight. After a frantic 70 minutes, the entire 120 of us in the Naughton Studio rise to our feet in sweet adulation.

Top theatre, get booking now.

I Am Maura runs up to and including Sunday March 12, 2023. There’s two shows today and two tomorrow.

For times and tickets visit http://www.lyrictheatre.co.uk or simply phone the box office on 02895 922925

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