Interview: One-man show at Tricycle Theatre captures ‘disappearing rural Ireland’

The Man In The Woman's Shoes at The Tricycle Theatre Written and Performed by Mikel Murfi. Picture:

The Man In The Woman's Shoes at The Tricycle Theatre Written and Performed by Mikel Murfi. Picture: Mark Douet - Credit: Photos by Mark Douet

Nominated for ‘best new play’ at the Irish Times Theatre Awards 2014, Mikel Murfi’s describes his one-man show, The Man in the Woman’s Shoes, as a comedy that celebrates the “extraordinary in the everyday”.

Relaxing in his rented flat just minutes away from the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, where the play runs until April 23, Murfi, pictured right, is conserving his energy for tonight’s performance; and he’ll need it.

Playing a cast of 12 characters singlehandedly, with as many as four having a conversation at any one time would be a challenge for most actors but Murfi’s thoroughly enjoying every minute.

“The Tricycle is such a lovely space, very intimate. We’re a few days in but last night I felt like I’d really settled in with it,” he says.

Set in 1978, the play follows ageing cobbler Pat Farnon as he walks the five miles from his smallholding into the local town, breaking in a pair of women’s shoes for a client.

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Only Pat is mute.

“It’s the kind of thing that could only work in theatre. Pat does talk to the audience and the other characters but what we hear is his inner monologue. What I was keen to capture was a rural Ireland that’s disappearing.”

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Built on conversations with old-age home residents in his hometown of Sligo, the play was commissioned in 2012 by Sligo Council Arts Service and the Hawk’s Well Theatre, as part of a project to encourage older people to engage with the arts.The initial intention was for a run of four performances, three of those in old age homes.

It has been touring ever since, with two runs in New York.

Well-known in the Irish theatre, Murfi has been acting for nearly 30 years, getting his first break on television in Ireland staring alongside Pauline McLynn – better know as Mrs Doyle in Father Ted - but this is his first self-penned work.

He says: “I was terrified. But it was a real privilege to interview these great personalities.

“I’d go in and have a cup of tea and a chat – Irish people are great talkers and great tea-drinkers.”

His appraisal of Irish loquaciousness would make an apt self-description. Although he says that he’s not a fan of talking to journalists, his conversation zips along with animation and anecdote.

The play has garnered glowing reviews, but he says he never reads any.

I just hope he’s left a little energy for tonight’s performance.

Performances from Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Wednesday matinees at 2pm and Sunday matinees at 3pm. Tickets £18-£24 (£10 concessions). or call 020 7328 1000 to book.

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