The Man in the Woman’s Shoes, Tricycle Theatre, review: ‘Unashamedly nostalgic’

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

Where else can you find a spot-on impression of a dog who thinks she’s a cockerel?

That’s just one member of the menagerie conjured by the extraordinary Mikel Murfi, who also summons chickens, bees, seagulls, pigs, sheep and a dying turkey, along with enough local characters to vividly immerse us in this ‘70s rural Irish community.

Murfi’s 75-minute one-man show is unashamedly nostalgic and sentimental, as gentle a ramble as that taken by cobbler Pat Farnon, who’s breaking in a pair of shoes for formidable local woman Kitsy Rainey.

However, his physical versatility, ear for idiosyncratic, often poetic turns of phrase and storyteller’s effortless command mightily impresses.

Pat is intelligent, humorous and articulate, but the confident voice we hear is actually internal: he’s been mute since childhood.

Neighbours say fairies stole his speech, though the implied cause is trauma – “sadness can stop a boy’s tongue”.

Murfi is an astute observer of the region’s intersecting superstition and earthy common sense.

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Traditions, like informing the bees of a death, are solemnly maintained, and the Catholic Church is a dominant presence, but Pat takes great delight in a chaotic football match, a full-voiced congregant duelling a pompous bishop and an irreverent debate about whether the Pope could be an organ donor.

Murfi isn’t interested in grand religious discourse, so much as small acts of kindness.

Pat, who literally walks miles in other people’s shoes and listens rather than speaks, is the embodiment of empathy, and his tentative romance with the equally eccentric Kitsy is exquisitely joyful. The play was commissioned by Sligo Arts for a festival celebrating creativity in older age groups, and it’s a persuasive argument for not overlooking those society pushes to the margins.

A real gem.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

The Man in the Woman’s Shoes.

The Tricyle Theatre

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