GAA comedy St Mungo's should be prescribed on NHS

Conor Grimes and Alan McKee, writers and stars of St Mungo's Luganulk
Jane Hardy

TO BE honest, I was not sure whether Grimes and McKee's latest outing, St Mungo's Luganulk, which had its Belfast premiere at the Lyric's Naughton Studio on Tuesday would be to my taste.

Men running around a sports field in shorts have of course always done it for me, but my knowledge of GAA is embarrassingly inadequate compared to my enthusiasm for rugby and the beautiful game. I needn't have worried – all you needed to enjoy this superbly comic show was a sense of humour.

Bumping into actor and director Dan Gordon before the play, I learnt that he had pointed the boys in the right direction. He said: "I felt GAA was an underused topic that could be great and they've been doing great business in Tyrone and down south."

The appeal was instant from the off. We began with an obligatory Carry On-style sequence of double entendres as the guy running the small club's lottery talked endlessly about showing us his balls before he made the draw.

His sidekick, a hapless vice-chair played with brilliant timing by Conor Grimes, ended up getting lucky although (spoiler alert) the authors resisted the temptation to let their underdog team win the whole league. They nearly got there and that was good enough for us.

It's clever stuff too and there was even a Brechtian alienation scene when Player One and Player Two looked at each other in mid-show, admitted they hadn't got names and said don't worry, they get a reference in the second act. Which they of course did in a rather Samuel Beckett manner.

This take on the real man's Irish sport, with the dirtiest and most exciting 90 minutes available, involved a dazzling cast of characters. It was honestly difficult to work out one's favourites – maybe the eastern European hard men car-wash experts or Fr Fintan (Alan McKee) who poured wine and sympathy to his old school friend.

Or Madonna, the wife of Barry Maguire who had brought his obsessive-compulsive nature back from London to his home patch and just wanted everybody to get it together and win. As the woman, Mr McKee was agreeably camp.

There was a Fast Show slickness and Father Ted surrealism about it all and real brainpower behind. And as we reached the climax, you wondered how two men had peopled the stage so well.

See St Mungo's if you can; this production should really be bottled and issued via the NHS, it's that good for the immune system.


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