Marie Jones’ take on women, ageing, sex and loneliness draws an enthusiastic and largely female audience at Derby Theatre. The first half is much as you’d expect of a comedy about two mature Daniel O’Donnell groupies from Belfast staying overnight in Donegal after a concert.
A silk-clad Vera (Amanda Hurwitz) rages drunkenly about being on the sexual scrapheap, while a pillow-hugging Anna (Caitriona Hinds) seeks escape from her unsatisfactory marriage in the romantic world of O’Donnell’s ballads. Their evening is enlivened by Fergal, the waiter (Iarla McGowan), whose appearances come with a hint of Irish magic and madness that is fulfilled in the second half.
It’s almost two different plays. Out goes the comic outrage and pink bedroom set. Now the women are on a Donegal shore that ought to be romantic but is tawdry and surreal with broken masonry, collapsed window and suburban lampshades. It’s here, amid the wail of the banshee, that the women are confronted with the reality of their marriages, in Fergal the magician’s summoning up of the men and women in their lives.
McGowan makes a good job of playing all these, at his funniest in grey socks and red stilettoes as Vera’s ex-husband’s new, young wife. But it’s all rather drawn out and becomes a bit self-indulgent. A quicker pace for this half would help, and although Vera and Annie’s defiant answer is continued protest against the inequality of men and women, it doesn’t send you out convinced the case has satisfactorily been made.