The Tricycle Theatre is currently home to Mikel Murfi's outstanding one man play; The Man in the Woman's Shoes. Returning after a sell out run last year, Murfi's creation is a charmingly funny and touching tale imparting truths about life that strongly resonate.
The year is 1978 and the location is rural Ireland. Local cobbler Pat Farnon makes his way in to town, as is his norm, except this time he takes us along on his remarkable journey. On entering the theatre, the stage set is minimal to say the least. Black back drop and black floor, with just a few props carefully placed. Shoes patiently waiting be filled. In an age where we are continually overloaded with information and visual stimulus, there is something immediately appealing about this blank canvas.
In an understated and quiet manner, Murfi (as Pat) enters the stage and with a delicate ease and enchanting vocal ability, he sketches Pat's home in to our imaginations. Wordlessly moving around the stage for the initial few minutes, I became transfixed by Murfi's ability to create a scene in my mind. When he started speaking, I found myself looking across to where he was pointing, smiling to myself when I realised there was no need to turn.
Wearing a pair of Kitsy Rainey’s shoes in order to break them in, Pat heads in to town, meeting friends and acquaintances along the way. Each person then has their moment in the spotlight as Murfi switches effortlessly between Pat and whoever he encounters. Murfi's talent of transformation is indisputable and you are swept along with his performances as he embodies character after character. The way in which he can morph in front of your very eyes and step in to another skin is truly impressive. It's as if there are a whole host of actors on stage instead of just one.
As Pat distills more information about the town he lives in and the locals that inhabit it, he paints a reocognisable picture of ordinary life. Themes such as relationships, love and loneliness are as relevant and universal today as they always have been. Pat is not a complex man yet he shares thoughts about life that resonate strongly. A more arrogant man would bestow them to you as wisdom, yet here they are passed lightly, between friends. The story is handled with ease and there is a great deal of humour to be found too. The roaring of laughter from around me reminded me that I was not watching alone and the tale of Mass and the climactic football match brought tears of hilarity to my cheeks.
In creating the world of Pat Farnon, Murfi has crafted a world so joyous and alive, you want to lose yourself inside it, even if just for a short while. As I left the theatre, my spirits were raised and a smile rested gently across my face. Performed with affection and passion, The Man in the Woman's Shoes is a wonderful achievement. It tells a simple tale with depth and emotion, something which far more convoluted stories often fail to do.