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Brighton Fringe 2016

The Cunning Mr Lingus

Rialto Theatre

Genre: Comedy, Contemporary, Fringe Theatre, New Writing, Short Plays

Venue: Rialto Theatre


Low Down

Rialto productions present Lorraine Mullaney expanding on her monologue from Sex in Shorts last year which she also produces. Directed by Su Gilroy, starring Garry Freer reprising his role, adding Sorcha Brooks.


Lorraine Mullaney expands on her highly successful monologue from Sex in Shorts last year in this Rialto production. Mullaney also produces the show directed by Su Gilroy and starring Garry Freer reprising his role, and adding Sorcha Brooks as all the women in his life.

Based on this production, it makes inspired sense to expand this to a two-hander. Martin Lingus is evicted from his home by a woman tired of his tiny ways and even tinier pecker. Martin loves women but can’t satisfy them. We’re treated to a series of reflections of women not even noticing and the three whose attractive features shape his life… home features, since Martin loves period features and chases women who possess them.

Freer who had a big career – TV, Berkoff to Broadway – returns after an eighteen-year break to exude ooze and oleaginous charm as a now homeless man who somehow smarms his way into women’s homes – and beds. Freer’s energy and chipper persona perfectly edge themselves this side sanity by a whisker. It’s a consummate slime.

First up is Brooks’ prim Pauline librarian at forty-two who hearing she was plain at nineteen decided to live plain and prefer Coin Firth in celluloid. Enter Martin at thirty-five first as lodger; for eight years they bump along till Pauline discovers he no longer pays his way, leaving the Council Parks. Changing locks when she realizes a young woman’s spotted him she forces Martin on lovely Jenny who merely wants him as sperm father. Out, on Christmas Eve.

Brooks’ second role in a blonde wig as Nicole marriage saver – she puts vim into married men – in the finest sequence of the play. Martin whom she takes pity on at the soup kitchens, is as execrable a chatter-upper as lover.

This being Christmas she takes him home, not at all attracted. But she must pass him off to another woman when presentable so we’re treated to a sequence of Martin’s self-regarding lines deconstructed, then – she has to do it – training him up in bed. To compensate for his pecker ‘I didn’t tell him a woman needs a good rogering now and then’ she tongues him in the art of cunnilingus, through making alphabets with his own tongue; a bit like The Vagina Monologues with a man in it. A satin sheet’s posed vertically as the two disport themselves in a literal A-Z of the cunning art. Brooks facial expression and comments as she finally reaches a big A, C and of course O have to be seen.

Now she’s hand-reared him she lets him find one Lavinia a mature 1980s looker. Nicole’s work is done. Lavinia abounds in period features (cue older womens’ ‘original‘ features) mainly tiles. All swims till Lavinia who’d like a good rogering finds Martin’s hapless – and… that’d be telling.

The coda jump-cuts; it’s worth seeing this yourself, as plot laid earlier comes home.

Freer’s timing is exemplary and comic, eyes from hangdog to glowing with the chase. He interacts neatly with the audience, particularly women as compere and confidant. Brooks sparkles versatility from frump to vamp to grand dame. Minimal props save bed and sparing lighting make this a portable production. At fifty minutes it never outstays its welcome and if one can imagine something richer and existential coming from some profound froth – is it? – then Mullaney’s goal is to get us laughing and thinking. Firmly (as it were) recommended.