Arts

Ups and downs of bus's hilarious return journey

The Holy Holy Bus, which stars Stella McCusker, front, is at the Lyric until July 10

REVIEW

The Holy Holy Bus

Lyric Theatre, Belfast

PACK a few hankies and go and see The Holy Holy Bus - you will cry with laughter and shed a few tears of emotion as secrets are shared not only between the four women who take the trip but with all of us in the theatre. There's no separation between auditorium and stage with this Brassneck Theatre Company production; from the word go we are all on the bus together.

The story is of a mother (Stella McCusker) and daughter (Roisin Gallagher). The older woman, Lily, is full of wisdom and naughtiness; the girl, Sally, is going through a bad breakup with her despicable husband who chides her by telling her she's barren. The two women decide to go on one last adventure and so they join the parish pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick.

The team leader is Perpetua, (Claire Connor) and it looks like a straightforward devout Catholic religious tour of the holiest shrines in Ireland. But then along comes Rita (Caroline Curran) a Protestant taxi driver wanting to learn about Mother Ireland, a heart of gold but a mouth full of brilliant one-liners, and the dynamics are thrown up in the air and give us a great night's entertainment as they come floating down.

Each woman harbours a secret and as the unlikely quartet get closer, the truth comes out and we share the sadness.

Written by west Belfast playwright Pearse Elliott and directed by Tony Devlin the dialogue is non-stop funny. There are some great lines. When Sally tells Rita she can't have kids, Rita's immediate reaction is, "Have you tried the UVF?" What a difference one letter can make.

Discussing faith, the mother's opinion is that there are no atheists in a foxhole, and that marijuana is great craic, it puts wind in your sails. Her take on life is: "Look to the sunrise not to the sunset."

The play rolls on at a fast pace, short scenes punctuated by songs, from Seven Drunken Nights to a beautiful Irish singer with harp accompaniment to Country and Western. There's a karaoke and we all sing along.

The set is simple, four large picture frames reflect where we are in the story, on the motorway, at a nightclub or climbing Croagh Patrick. This play returns by public demand and I'm not surprised.

:: At Lyric Theatre, Belfast, until July 10, then touring to Newcastle and the Roddy McCorley Club. More at brassnecktheatrecompany.com

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