Review: Belfast-set stage comedy Three's A Shroud puts the fun in funeral

Shaun Blaney and BJ Hogg in Three's A Shroud, written by Stephen Large and directed by Martin Lynch, at the Waterfront Studio, Belfast


Three’s A Shroud

Waterfront Studio


THERE aren’t many laughs in a funeral parlour but when it’s McSorely and Gray there’s plenty of black humour and pure comedy.

Gerry McSorely (BJ Hogg) buries Catholics and up the road Basil Gray (Shaun Blaney) buries Prods. Never the two shall meet except when needs must and they are prepared to take bodies from ‘the other side’ – and that’s the crux of this play.

A novel way to look at our divisions and how united is better than divided.

The actors in this Martin Lynch-directed production work hard as they all play multiple roles, especially Blaney who has an attitude for each character. He has a gem of a part and makes the most of it.

Apprentice Simon Doherty (Matthew McElhinney) bounces his way through the action, terrified of dead bodies to begin with but coming up with genius ideas to bring McSorley’s into the 21st century and beyond.

The two funeral furnishers are at war with each other. They begin to talk about cooperation, eventually forced into working together when a posh Polish woman, Irena Bukowski (Nuala McGowan), decides to set herself up burying all comers, all religions and none, and cheaper than anyone else. Something has to be done and it’s Simon who comes up with the solution.

McGowan doubles up as Mrs Johnston, the hilarious cleaner. Hogg doubles up as the paramilitary heavy looking for his ‘protection’ money. I felt he would have been more sinister if his woolly hat had been pulled down over his white hair and he'd had a pair of wraparound sunglasses, setting him more apart from his character of McSorely.

Stephen G Large is a talented writer – certainly he has an ear for the Belfast lingo – but has fallen into the trap here of knowing he’ll get a laugh for every ‘f’ word and even more with a couple of ‘c’ words.

Make no mistake, this play is coarse; bodily parts get big laughs but references get a bit tiresome. The first time we see a body (very realistic 'corpses') being washed down and his private parts are exposed there’s a gasp and the biggest laugh of the night – which was justified.

I spoke to a Canadian visitor who could be excused for not quite picking up the dialogue and she was very taken aback by the content. However, like the mother and daughter who said they were disgusted, she went back for the second half.

They were the exceptions, though. This undoubtedly was a hilarious night out for the vast majority of the audience and Large is one to watch.

:: Until October 21. Tickets and more details at

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