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The Theatreguide.London Review

The Man In The Woman's Shoes
Tricycle Theatre   Spring 2016; Summer 2017

This 75-minute monologue witten and performed by Mikel Murfi is overflowing with Irishness, but it would take a more determined curmudgeon than I to resist its charm and humour. 

The title character is no pervert, but a country cobbler breaking in a female customer's shoes by wearing them on his walk into town to deliver them, meet another customer and take in a local football match.

(The premise may remind you of Samuel Beckett's All That Fall, in which we hear a woman's thoughts as she walks into town to meet her husband, but Beckett's radio play is, unsurprisingly, much darker in tone.) 

The shoemaker is mute in real life, but vocal and even eloquent in the thoughts with which he communicates with us. He has a generally happy air, a real connection with nature, and a mildly ironic attitude toward the people he meets or describes (giving Murfi the opportunity to insert a few anecdotes of others).

He can rise to a kind of naive poetry, describing a running dog as 'like a streak of black wind' and admiring that 'she's some dog for one dog'. He allows himself the occasional joke 'How is it that the night falls but the dawn breaks?' and can even rise to a touch of philosophising 'Everything will be OK in the end, and if it's not OK it's not the end'. 

Among the other characters briefly sketched in are the lady customer, a no-nonsense woman who improbably but enthusiastically manages the football team, a height-challenged man who needs extra-long shoes to reach the pedals in his car, and the town drunk who has total recall of every football match he's ever seen. 

And among the topics touched on in his thoughts are children's perceptions of church, talking to bees and why the Pope can't be an organ donor. 

Whatever implied pathos there is in the man filled with thoughts but unable to speak to others is more than balanced by his placid disposition, ironic humour and general satisfaction with his life, so that the surprise happy ending offered him in the final moments seems altogether appropriate and deserved. 

In a programme note Murfi credits the Irish country folk he met on a story-gathering tour for some of the material, but the creating of a memorable character and the world around him, and the sustaining of a thoroughly entertaining tone are entirely his.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - The Man In The Woman's Shoes - Tricycle Theatre 2016