Not many one-man shows are capable of bringing enough energy to fill an entire evening, but all Mikel Murfi has to do is walk on stage and the audience is captivated. With a slightly bent back and a slight smile on his face, we are sent the hometown of Pat Fernon, the mute cobbler who is helpfully taking a walk in Kitsy Rainey’s new shoes to break them in.
Murfi, who wrote the piece after a visit to his home county of Sligo, Ireland, is a wonderful observer: from the tremble of the lip to the placement of the foot, the mannerisms of the numerous characters are orchestrated through the subtlest changes. Every movement has a purpose, and yet his performance never feels artificial or hammy. Not only do these characters come to life with ease, but they are instantly familiar as well – you feel like you know them all. We recognise the priest from the church, the town gossip, the drunk football player, and we laugh, because Murfi presents them in a loving, devoted way, fully changing his physicality and voice to embody them without judgment or hidden commentary. The most significant part of this is the instantly loveable Pat, who is unable to talk, but opens up to the audience through his inner thoughts.
The Man in the Woman’s Shoes manages to be philosophical without force-feeding any overarching theme or subtext. It is, in the simplest way, about life and the ones living it. Pat’s sentiments range from the heartbreakingly beautiful to musing on how chairs would look if our knees bent the other way. It is the humour and sweet earnestness that makes the piece not only entertaining, but also thought-provoking.
The bare stage of the Tricycle does not need more than a couple of shoes to mark the parameters of this world that is constructed through mere words. Murfi fills the stage so well, he is able to perform a three-way argument by himself while a football match is playing in the background. By some miracle, he has time to show all of it, without once dropping the illusion; he takes his time, and everything happens when it should, not when the timing could earn him the biggest laughs. In amongst all these different voices is the strongest sense of Murfi’s heart.
The Man in the Woman’s Shoes is on until 23rd April 2016. Click here for tickets.