Moll – Gaiety Theatre – Review by Frances Winston
This latest production of the classic John B. Keane 1971 comedy proved so popular before it even opened that the run was extended. This is possibly down to the star power of its cast as it does indeed boast some impressive names. The two biggest are probably Glenroe stalwart Mary McEvoy and Fr. Ted star Frank Kelly. However, surprisingly these two make only brief cameo appearances in the show. The main cast consists of acting legend Des Keogh, Naked Camera star Patrick McDonnell, The Tudors actor Damien Kearney and well known theatre actress Clare Barrett who plays the eponymous Moll.
Set in a rural presbytery it opens with Curates Father Brest and Father Lorcan and Conon Pratt interviewing for a new housekeeper and settling on Moll as the perfect woman for the job. Little do they know that she will throw their lives into complete turmoil. Using a divide and conquer strategy she gets the Canon onside to cater to her whims while blatantly ignoring and neglecting the two Curates. She is seeking financial security and utilises her influence on the Canon to implement big improvements in the parish which obviously will bode well for him with the Bishop and in turn for her. However Father Brest in particular becomes more and more antagonised by the savvy widow and is constantly seeking ways to knock her out of favour.
The three priests and a housekeeper scenario is familiar to audiences nowadays thanks to Father Ted but this was written before that show was even a twinkle in Dermot Morgan’s eye. It owes more to the reality of the live in housekeepers that were a staple in presbyteries around the country than anything else. These women often yielded huge influence over their boss and their role gave them a particular stature in the community. All of this is referenced here for comic effect and Moll truly proves to be a force of nature as she descends on the formerly sedate presbytery.
Barrett as Moll starts with a screeching high energy and carries it through for the duration. At times it does become too much – Moll is supposed to have a shrill voice but after two and a half hours you do find yourself wishing she would speak normally once in a while, although this proves a good foil to Keogh’s sedate and ambling Canon. Kearny and O’Donnell seem to have decided to camp it up as Fathers’ Brest and Lorcan which doesn’t always work although Brest’s sheer hatred of Moll is played wonderfully and he proves an excellent nemesis to her.
On the night I was there Frank Kelly’s entrance as The Bishop was greeted with loud cheers and rapturous applause. He did fluff his lines but no one seemed to notice and I think he could have read the phone book and the audience still would have cheered. This is a shame as it is a pivotal moment in the play and deserves the full attention of the audience and I wonder if by casting him in another priestly role the producers have done themselves and the play somewhat of a disservice.
All of that aside though the writing still stands up and this is as witty and funny as when it was first staged. There is plenty of almost slapstick comedy and the cast have a great chemistry and are clearly enjoying themselves which is infectious for an audience. Some of the references, such as Vatican 2, are probably a bit outdated for younger audience members but I can’t see it ruining the show for anyone. There are a lot of visual jokes so it is not the kind of play you can take your eye off even for a second and you really need to pay attention to the witty repartee or you will miss some jokes. Much like Moll herself this is a whirlwind from start to finish that is far from flawless but funny and engaging enough that you ignore the faults.
The Gaiety Theatre, Sth. King Street, Dublin 2.
May 27th – June 21st Tickets €22.50 – €28.50 15% off OAP. Monday – Thursday only
Show Times: Monday – Saturday 7:30pm. Saturday Matinee 2:30pm