Reviewers for Plays To See must specify the genre of what they are reviewing (comedy, drama, opera, or whatever). But this reviewer could think of nothing better than what this entertainment has styled itself – a one-man show. And what a show! A full house at one of London’s leading fringe theatres last night enjoyed 75 minutes of pure delight, and gave Mikel Murfi (who may also go by the more conventional moniker of Michael Murphy) a standing ovation.
Mingling humour and pathos, Mikel adopts the persona of an old cobbler in his native County Sligo, who must walk five miles from his cottage to the town and deliver there a pair of lady’s shoes. In order to break them in for the customer, he wears them himself for the five-mile walk – hence the title of this unique show. On the way he falls in with various characters, male and female. all of whom he plays himself, with their different accents and mannerisms, switching from one to the other faultlessly and without a pause. The language is rich with the vernacular of the West of Ireland, a dialect alive with vivid turns of phrase and surprising metaphors. But it is not just human language that Mikel speaks. A turkey, a sheep, the neighbour’s dog and a bee add their voices most authentically to the repertoire as they come the way of the Irish cobbler.
As well as in his range of vocalisms, Mikel surprises one with the sheer physicality of his performance. With no props save three pairs of shoes (the lady’s, his own and one other) and a present at the end, he conveys all the physical actions of the story – the walk itself, drinking from a well, having a cup of tea and a sandwich at a café – so naturally that one hardly notices the absence of a cup and saucer, or whatever.
These thespian feats are not, however, the main reason for going to see this show. They are the underpinning of a genuinely heart-warming story, sometimes sad, often hilarious, with sharp observation of the frailty of our human condition. You will leave the theatre with your spirits buoyed.