herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Review

It's all Micheal Martin's fault. He's the one who introduced the smoking ban. He is the reason a grouchy Dublin mother is freezing her behind off in a cramped smoking area out the back of her local on a busy Friday night. There are some colourful regulars in this evening.

For a start, there's Trisha - a pregnant bride-to-be, chomping on pickled onions while her mates from Liverpool puff on cigarettes, contemplating a trip to Temple Bar. Barbara is in, too, as is Mary Kelly, whose sons are locked up in the Joy.

Meanwhile, Suzie, the Asian lounge girl, has accidentally stepped into the wrong conversation. By the time the weekend is through, most of these women will have become embroiled in a scandal worth €60,000 in stolen dough. Oh, and did we mention that actress Mary Murray (Janet from Love/Hate) plays everyone? That's some task, right there.

AMBITIOUS

Let's get one thing straight - it's a great idea, basing a play in a smoking area where all the best chatter and disloyalties come to light. On that note alone, writer Paddy Murray should be commended for crafting what is, at times, a witty and entertaining script.

It's the ambitious crime story at the centre of No Smoke without Fire, however, that over-complicates things. This is actually a tale about a post-office robbery; a curious case of the missing loot in which a handful of chancers overstep their boundaries. There's no such thing as harmless gossip. Everything leaves a mark out in this poorly-heated, backyard dwelling, and you gotta pay full attention to each and every 'clue'.

It's a little tricky, then; a tad incomplete, and not nearly as tight and cohesive as it should be. But let's focus on the positives - Mary Murray is something else. Imagination is required, for there is nothing and nobody else on that stage, which makes it all the more extraordinary that Murray manages to hold every 'conversation' together.

It's a masterful display, and an absorbing exercise in both physical theatre and storytelling. There's a touch of Roddy Doyle here, too, Murray cutting through amusing one-liners with superb comic timing.

There are a lot of expressions and accents at work, but Murray's seamless transition from one character to the next is what makes this play special. Again, it sometimes feels as though sections of the script have gone missing, but for the most part, the hugely talented Murray keeps things ticking over.

Put it this way, you can practically smell the cigarette smoke, and she doesn't even use a prop. Yep, Mary Murray is the real deal.

Running until June 13 HHHII

> CHRIS WASSER

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