A four-star pro majority greeted The Man in the Woman’s Shoes, which Fiona Mountford (ES) found a “delightful one-man show” on its arrival at the Tricycle Theatre. Dave Fargnoli (The Stage) found writer/performer Mikel Murfi “a masterful storyteller”.
He described “a compendium of anecdotes, adages and argot, much of it collected through conversations with people around Murfi’s native Sligo”. Dave Calhoun (Time Out) said: “It’s not verbatim theatre, but it carries something of its spirit. Murfi’s vocal dexterity and physical nimbleness allow him to bear an entire town on his back.” Mountford explained of his character, Pat “the narrative he shares is playing only in his head. But what an abundantly well-stocked head it turns out to be”.
Fargnoli observed a “rare ability to switch between voices and mannerisms at speed while keeping several characters distinct”. Jane Shilling (Telegraph) saw him embody “everything from a bee to Kitsey Rainey – the ferocious football coach with a heart of marshmallow – with a supple energy” she found “entirely captivating”. As Calhoun explained “We even hear him faultlessly imitating chickens. And pigs. And dogs. And seagulls.” Mountford said he “embodies them all… with distinction” describing “an intensely vivacious face, capped by cherishably mobile eyebrows”.
She was among those observing “playful echoes” of All That Fall “in the long walk and eccentric characters”, although Shilling detected “only hints of the darkness and complexity of Beckett’s drama”. Fargnoli found this piece “both perceptive and mischievous… by turns silly, surreal and sentimental” and set in a “nostalgic, rural Ireland… full of luminous details”. He acknowledged “an ambling and somewhat aimless tale” but enjoyed “a vivid – and unmistakably Irish – turn of phrase” suggesting “it is the warmth and skill of the telling which makes it so enjoyable”. Calhoun agreed: “the words, language and rhythms of everyday speech all carry a sharp ring of truth” adding “it helps that so much of this is very funny”.
Shilling summed up “a work of great charm and affection for rural Ireland and its people, performed with astonishing versatility”. Fargnoli described “an uplifting celebration of eccentricity” and Calhoun found it “enormously big-hearted, ridiculously energetic” with “endless compassion and verve”. Mountford said “Murfi magics up wonders from a bare stage” and hailed “A modern classic in the making”.