Really, this is a sad little story. A girl trapped in one place all her young life, same friends, same routine, every day the same, every night looking for love in the same places. Fancies the pants off Mike Nesbitt but there’s no hope of escaping the boredom until that is, she stands in for her friend Sally Ann at a job interview in the job centre.
She’s the sort of girl who loses her virginity to the milkman’s son in the Shankill graveyard so it’s little wonder, when invited, she sets off on an adventure with the mature, upstanding manager conducting the interview at the Bru. But Mr. White isn’t all he appears when he’s interviewing prospective job seekers, in the bedroom he is something else. He likes to dominate and that’s putting it mildly.
And so Mr. White becomes Maggie Muff’s Mr. Red, White and Blue, tall, dark and buxom and she accepts his request to get a little closer. At first she’s flattered, she realises he likes her brash, irreverent approach to life, her less than lady like vocabulary and her sexual freedom.
In a clever script, writer Leesa Harker allows us to listen to Maggie Muff’s experiences, what her friends say about the adventure, her morose mother’s downbeat approach to life, Sally-Ann’s outrage at what’s happening to her friend and the monotone voice of Mr. RWandB asking ‘Moorgrat’ very personal questions.
This is a one woman show and what a woman; actress Caroline Curran struts and sashays her way across the Opera House stage, swings her blond pony tail, leaps on and off the only prop (apart from a black coat with a fur collar), a large circular bed. She acts with her body, she commands the stage and the audience, we are putty in her hands and even though I had seen the play before, I still enjoyed it throughly. All around me men and women were in stitches.
Producer Martin Lynch has said: “Some people will look down and regard the content of this play as some kind of smut or indeed soft porn, crude and ignorant and ultimately demeaning to women.” He adds that he doesn’t agree with this response but it has to be said it is crude, shocking and outrageous. But this is a wee ‘Ken Dodd from the Shankill’, we are on her territory and this is her world, a graphic world of explicit sexual experience.
Funny what people will laugh at, in any other space it would not be tolerated but Caroline Curran combines a sort of innocent girl with a hard wee woman and theatre is a wonderful place for airing anything under the sun.
I thought there was a dip towards the beginning of the second half – repetition holds no shock value – but then Mr. White drops his religious bombshell and begins physically abusing this vulnerable young woman, the whole tenor of the play changes.
Some people found Maggie Muff’s vulgar language embarrassing but bad words get big laughs. There are many topical comments for instance, Mr. RWandB sets rules of engagement but so does our streetwise heroin. It’s agreed that if she finds his sadomasochistic behaviour too much for her and wants to call a halt, she shouts ‘Ulster Says No’! Big laugh.
But it does get too much; a bombshell revelation about his religious aspirations and a brutal beating and Maggie realises this life is not for her.
In the end our wee Maggie Muff realises she’s being used, she opts out of the relationship and sadly tells us she feels like a little dropped glove left lying on the ground, and I found myself crying.
50 Shades of Red White and Blue
A Martin Lynch Production
Grand Opera House until 24th August 2013
Make sure you check out our Belfast Times chat with Leesa Harker here.