Maggie Yer Ma! Theatre Review
Grand Opera House, Belfast • 06 June ’18
By Conor O’Neill
John Cleese knew well enough to leave Fawlty Towers after two series; George Lucas, on the other hand, couldn’t leave the Star Wars trilogy alone and made a right mess of it by picking the scab and leaving a terrible scar on the trilogy’s legacy. When I saw that Leesa Harker’s Maggie Muff was to return I had a terrible feeling. Why not leave well alone? I’ve followed, reviewed and loved the trilogy but is the Muff tough enough for another outing?
The run opened on Monday. Total media blackout in my abode. I didn’t want to read a review, stayed as clear as I could of social media and crossed fingers Harker and Curran would deliver. Never been to one but have met them on the streets of major cities Europe over, scared the crap out of me. Yes, tonight had that Hen Night feeling. We fellas were outnumbered by about six to one. Women of all ages have grown up with Maggie through good times and bad. Caroline Curran is assured to bring a smile to anyone’s bake in any role, but as Maggie Muff, a character see seems to have been born to play, she’s at her finest. Her appeal is of greatest attraction to those who romped through the 90s.
Fittingly she comes on to a banging house tune, black leggings, hot-pants and a black t-shirt emblazoned in screaming pink with Maggie Yer Ma! on the front and MILF on the back. A huge dressing-gown on a hanger is the backdrop throughout the show and two huge glittered Dorothy red slippers adorn the centre of the stage. Director Andrea Montgomery doesn’t fall for the easy option of slick set changes and props to deliver this tale. Curran has worked with Harker long enough to know how to play the game. The fact that things are kept so simple allows the viewer’s eye to remain constantly on Curran as she slips from character to character with Vaseline ease.
And, yes, they’re all here. Big Sally-Ann, Maggie’s foul-mouthed, plume-of-feg-smoke Ma, Uncle Marty with his hunched back and machine-gun snigger at the end of every sentence, Jonny Big Balls, Bobby One Ball Bell, Pupert, Sinead the Greener, Doctors Carlsberg and Special Brew are there in times of need, Eli the Nigerian makes a brief entrance – pardon the vernacular – with long-lasting reprisals, then there’s Prosecco, Maggie’s seven-year-old daughter and with a mouth to match her ears, proving the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Constantly calling her ‘Maggie’ and being corrected. “It’s Mum, not Maggie” the little tearaways birthday is coming up. Funky Monkies is the place to be but doesn’t come cheap. Thankfully the Shebeen’s Got Talent night is coming up and Maggie and Big Sally-Ann, in their minds, are sure to win the prize of two hundred and fifty quid and a year’s supply of sausages.
It’s a gag a minute. Character after character, line after line, slip from Curran’s tongue as easily as they fall from Harker’s pen. Maggie: “Now, I’m not one to stereotype, I can’t type at all.” “Fellas with plucked eyebrows and skinny jeans, where’s the real men, tattooed, beer-bellied c%*ts?” I’ll not deliver another spoiler. Apart from Billie being locked up, Prosecco’s birthday, Uncle Marty’s trip to the Philippines and the Ice-Cream dilemma, there’s trouble looming.
Proving it’s not all about sex, drink, DLA plans and crime, Harker touches in little ways that slows the pace. A lovely metaphor is Maggie’s Ma stating: “Black Mountain is getting closer.” 40-a-day has reprisals. Then there’s the identity crisis. Big Sally-Ann: “Sure there were signs all along; you get pissed every Saint Paddy’s day.” Maggie: “I get pissed every day.” Before the big night, there are scenes to die for. The Copeland Island trip, the River Dance scene, phone sex, a homecoming, and many more.
The standing ovation was almost guaranteed from the first line. Fearing oestrogen was contagious I ran out humming Four Non-Blondes’ What’s Goin’ On.
If you revel in the air being turned blue, partied through the 90s, come from the wrong side of the tracks, and have a smidgeon of humanity and empathy in you, you’ll love this piece of theatre.
Maggie Yer Ma! Runs in the Grand Opera House until June 16 before touring the country. To book tickets phone the box office on 02890 241919 or visit www.goh.co.uk