Brighton Fringe 2012
Murphy’s Legacy is set in Ireland in 1994 as the Celtic Tiger economy is set to boom and the Catholic Church is still in the early days of scandals to come. This satirical play, written and directed by Eddie Alford for the Harbour Theatre Company deals with corruption, Catholicism, rural Ireland versus metropolitan, sex and pig racing. Its characters are a smarmy priest, a slippery politician, a practical caretaker with his ear to the ground, a sophisticated Dublin solicitor and an upwardly mobile, sexually adventurous estate agent.
This play follows on from Alford’s award winning play ‘The M Boat’ at last year’s Brighton Fringe and the same company give a delightful, spirited performance upstairs at The Eagle. I didn’t catch ‘The M Boat’ but I had a good evening out at Murphy’s legacy. If Vinny Fennell’s corrupt Minister for Darts – donations strictly cash only – is at all like the real thing, it’s little wonder the Celtic Tiger came crashing to its knees. The story revolves around the sale of a considerable property. The battle for ownership between a husband and his first wife make this sale the focus of satirical jibes about both dodgy land dealings and sexual politics.
A highlight of the play is the pig race, so cleverly staged you almost wish you had placed a bet yourself. I like the little touch of having horses look over the track at the pigs, spectators for once instead of contestants themselves. Although we see this race on screen (yes, we do see pigs racing) the main focus is the cast lined up to watch the race as Vinny Fennell gives the commentary in true sports tv style.
Fay Greenhalgh plays the estate agent with a snobbish, superior attitude and a heartening lust for the self-possessed female solicitor down from Dublin to close the deal on the property. Fay brings this character perfectly to life in her manner of speaking and her very funny facial expression and body language, making an art form of the hard-hitting jibe with a flirtatious twist.
Louise Taylor plays the solicitor, bringing an unsettling metropolitan style and attitude to this small rural location. ‘Murphy’s Legacy’ is punctuated by song and dance and Taylor’s beautiful unaccompanied rendition of Joan Armatrading’s ‘Love and Affection’ is one of the very good reasons to see this play.
Gearoid Sheehan plays Paddy the caretaker with comic charm and a twinkle in his not so innocent eye. He is the chief storyteller of the play as he rattles off all the gossip and the background to events barely pausing for breath as his Cork brogue runs ahead of him.
Fennell plays the priest as well as the politician and this doubling packs a strong satirical punch.
This play has developed from a 15 minute piece, through a half hour version into its current full length format. Its subject matter, story and characters can carry a full length play, but there is still some editing work to be done to avoid too much repetition of the same ideas and sharpen up a few of the jokes. This is the first staging of the full length version so I’m sure Eddie Alford will be taking notes.
The sheer warm-hearted fun of the play the writer and cast shine through the production and ensure that you’ll leave with a smile on your face and a tune on your lips. It’s a good night out.
In the final song, ‘The Parting Glass’ look out for the lovely moment when Fay Greenhalgh twists the meaning of the line, ‘But since it falls unto my lot that I should rise and you should not’ with a subtle down-her-nose glance at her neighbour, turning the line into a statement of snobbish ambition rather than a parting regret. Nice touch.