The Man in the Woman’s Shoes by Mikel Murfi
Loco and Restless Productions (production originally commissioned by the Hawk’s Well Theatre and Sligo County Arts Office)
Reviewed by Marie Lynch
Don’t take the title too literally! This play, written, directed and performed by Mikel Murfi, is not simply about a man in women’s footwear. Rather it gives us a look into one person’s enlightening, endearing life. I’m not one to usually enjoy one-man show as I think they can feel more like a recitation than a play with little or no action. However, during this performance I was completely immersed.
Set in rural Ireland in 1978, the play focuses on Pat Farnon, a country cobbler. We see him make a simple five-mile journey to town and back. We meet a wide variety of colourful characters along the way such as the iconoclastic Kitsy Rainey and conventional Huby Patterson. But the hook of this play is – Pat Farnon cannot talk. Instead of hearing him converse with others, we hear his thoughts, hopes and aspirations.
I admired Murfi’s characterization and ability to change from one character to another in a split second. It was visually pleasing and never hard to follow and understand which character was speaking.
The characters were perfectly scripted and you felt as if you were actually meeting locals from the town. The story was simple and told with good old Irish humour but never felt cheesy. It had a nostalgic feel which strongly affected the audience. Pat’s enthusiasm for life radiated onto the spectators continually throughout his ups and downs.
The set was bare. The lights were kept to a minimum and the only sound effects were made by Murfi himself who can play a very convincing dog. The design overall could have been perhaps expanded but for me it worked the way it was. The decision to keep the staging of the production so minimalistic was a clever device as it in turn reflected Pat’s simple life. This added to the play on a whole.
While this play had no complex plotline, it was full of life lessons and I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it ultimately uplifting. Murfi had a continual optimistic outlook and celebrated the life of ordinary people. It is a play for all ages and all walks of life. The play hooks you in from start to finish and I would highly recommend it.
Backstage Theatre Longford kindly supported this event.