The Man in the Woman's Shoes
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A tour de force from Irish performer Mikel Murfi in a joyous one-man show about a cobbler in rural Sligo
It feels like Irish actor-writer Mikel Murfi brings half of rural Sligo to a bare stage in Kilburn for this enormously big-hearted, ridiculously energetic one-man show. For 75 minutes, Murfi talks pretty much non-stop, making real the inner voice of his character, Pat Farnon, a cobbler who we slowly come to realise is mute – a shock considering the cascade of words tumbling from his mouth. Other characters come thick and fast as Murfi acts out the endless folk who Pat meets during the day or who he remembers on his travels. We even hear him faultlessly imitating chickens. And pigs. And dogs. And seagulls.
We meet Pat carrying out an odd task. It's late 1978, and he’s walking into town from his house wearing a pair of women’s shoes. Why? He’s breaking them in for Kitsy, a woman who he admires and who’s coaching a football team in the park that afternoon. En route, Pat meets friends and acquaintances; he stops in a cafe; he ponders the Catholic church and his relationship with God; he laughs about the recently deceased Pope. The chat is so relentless that it’s hard to keep up at times. But the words, language and rhythms of everyday speech all carry a sharp ring of truth to them. It helps that so much of this is very funny, a carnival of the everyday.
The story is a slightly corny fabulation, a yarn, an excuse for Murfi to wrap his arms around a community he loves. Murfi wrote ‘The Man in the Woman’s Shoes’ on the back of endless conversations with real people in Sligo; it’s not verbatim theatre, but it carries something of its spirit. Murfi’s vocal dexterity and physical nimbleness allow him to bear an entire town on his back. And he does it with endless compassion and verve. He’s quite a force.
This review of 'The Man in the Woman's Shoes' is from April 2016. It returns to the Tricycle in 2017.