Commissioned by Corcadorca, The Big Yum Yum is Pat McCabe’s first work written exclusively for the stage. One of Ireland’s most celebrated contemporary writers, McCabe’s play champions the role of women in society today amidst a wistful plot centred on the dubious success of the fictitious ‘Bel Air Showband.’ Premièring at The Half Moon Theatre in Cork, The Big Yum Yum is black and bold!
Bursting onto the scene in the late 50’s and enduring long-standing popularity right into the 1970’s, the showband years are remembered with great nostalgia in Ireland today and become pivotal to McCabe’s story. Once members of ‘The Bel Air Showband’, Unkie, Hoagy and Connie come together to celebrate Mammy Sweetheart’s eightieth birthday. With the Monsignor in tow, the five resurrect old memories and muse over the past. The Monsignor remembers writing his vocation and his mothers words, ‘you are going to be a credit to me.’ He remembers Gus and his days at the seminary. Unkie too remembers special moments with his mother and his time with ‘The Bel Air Showband.’ He then remembers crooked manager Eddie Rosco who filled the band with hollow assurances and brashly dismisses Hoagy’s walk down memory lane.
Gathered together in a dysfunctional dollhouse, the characters embody their infantile selves, each tugging for affection and crying for help. Aedín Cosgrove designs a Stepford-like emporium to house the cast of characters while Joan Hickson’s wonderful costume design accentuates their fragmented personalities.
Mammy Sweetheart symbolizes a universal maternal figure; she is a mother to all of the characters. She represents a changing world in which women are slowly attaining their voice and polarises the character of the Monsignor, who represents the patriarchal Ireland of the past. The seasoned cast, made up of Brendan Conroy, Ciaran McIntyre, Donagh Deeney, Kate O’Toole and Geraldine Plunkett all deliver colourful performances; the most compelling performance comes from Brendan Conroy who fully embodies the role of the tormented clergyman.
A great depression lies at the base of McCabe’s plot. Darkness hides behind the buntings and cáca milis (cake). Butch Moore’s ‘Walking the Streets in the Rain’ emphasizes the underlying nodes of loss and melancholia which litter the play while an overarching sexual undertone permeates, explicit in its subtlety. A little hard to swallow at times, Pat Kiernan presents an imaginative and eccentric production to complement McCabe’s outlandish tempo.