The newest post-Maggie Muff offering from what you could call the hen party theatrical genre is appropriately enough, Diona Doherty’s new play The Hen Do. It premiered to an enthusiastic, mainly female audience at the Grand Opera House last night. It’s entertainment that is warm hearted, sexy, features strong Northern Irish women often sorting things out. So in an odd sort of way, as we waved our phones and brightly lit wands resembling sex toys we were in a theatre of dreams.
Or maybe not. The pzazz of early Ms Muff plays, produced like this one by GBL Productions, was somehow missing. There were some good gags, of course, including stuff about Northern Irish identity, but lack of decent diction lost some of the material. We did get the reference to crystals in unfortunate places though! However, after a slow opening, our heroine Becky (playwright and comedian Diona Doherty) and her gay sister Ciara (nicely irritating in Niamh McAllister‘s performance) and their mum Sally (winning Jo Donnelly) were off to, of course, Ibiza. Cue cut out palm trees, incredible cocktails (yes the name is as suggestive and the mother said she’d smelt Black Russians that were disgusting!), summer sounds including Aha.
A hen do is also potentially poignant, but not here, although in a Mr and Mrs sequence Becky confessed to first saying I love you to Kenny after he saw her through a digestive disaster in the hotel loo. We also learnt she’d chosen her husband to be on ginger celebration day.
Plotwise, it was Carry On without quite enough carry on, even though our bold tutu clad trio implausibly ended up in jail. Cue a reference to the Stephen Nolan show when Doherty, a superb comic actor in shows like Soft Border Patrol, drunkenly phones the great man. The second act certainly put that lack of narrative right with a breast cancer storyline involving the girls’ mother which was shocking as a hand grenade in Pronuptia. Sally, a comic figure slightly resembling Big Sally Ann in Leesa Harker’s oeuvre, changed. Then she blossomed after a sweet repeat encounter with the no longer young DJ catering for his youthful, impatient audience.
I remember at my hen do outlawing a stripper. Then, half way through the dinner, demanding one. Hen dos are like that and here, brave actor Keith Singleton, who cleverly outlined a series of nice to inadequate males, did the deed. Almost but not the full Monty as he deployed a couple of posing pouches with aplomb. There was sentiment, a nice risk when the wine levels descend, as Sally gets her own mini hen do. She finally learnt to do the Macarena. It’s interesting that although there was a lot of emphasis on between the legs activity, we don’t get anything really shagadelic, to quote Mike Myers, until the mother gets off with Robert. Which is touching and rather nice. Sean Simpson directed and there was a dancing standing ovation.
The Hen Do runs at The Grand Opera House (goh.co.uk) until October