Running until 13th January, Forget Turkey! is an hour and a half long satirical swipe – in the form of a sketch show – at the past 12 months of Northern Irish and world politics, with some musical numbers thrown in for good measure (or for sweeping coverage of minor events, as it were). Its success is difficult to measure – as satire it is excellent – in that it is biting, not always funny, and it offers no easy answers; but as a sketch show it is quite hit and miss – because it is biting, not always funny, and offers no easy answers. In saying that, the play is easily recommended, for the second half’s funniest moments; for the message in the play’s punctuating sober moments and for the genuine quality of the comic acting on show.
A sketch show as a format is easy to manage as a method of moving from one ‘hot’ topic to another, and by using this structure the writers (Colin Murphy, Gary Mitchell and Dan Gordon) ensure each ‘swipe’ reaches its target: whether its institutional or grass roots racism; the foolishness of sectarianism; the smug swarm of inane political eunuchs; each other; the NHS; sporting celebrity (Rory McIlrory, for some reason, gets a fair amount of abuse); the pressure of commercialism at Christmas despite large scale (relative) poverty…. The writers don’t hold back.
The songs are generally entertaining – the re-wording of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” was a good summary of the past 12 months – but the closing song didn’t work very well – or perhaps it worked perfectly. The chorus leads “The Troubles are over in Ulster / The Troubles are over in the North of the island;” – a statement that is shown repeatedly to be wholly ironic. The actors on stage, as they sang, seemed determined to have the audience sing along. But the audience wouldn’t. Any indeed, why would they? This is either a case of assuming too much acquiescence in the minds of the audience, or a deliberate attempt to show how completely the ‘troubles’ – in whatever form they take – are not over, by illustrating to the audience how hard it is to sing those words even in jest. I’d suggest it is a case of both: the former being but a mistaken assumption, and the latter being but consequentially discovered. Whether it was intentional or not, it was certainly an interesting moment.
The most brilliant aspect of the Forget Turkey! was, hands down, Jo Donnelly. Chris Robinson displayed his diversity and comic/vocal range wonderfully, and the other two stars – Maria Connolly and Michael Condron – were adept at switching between roles and accents in a matter of moments; and all four actors were comical and likeable. But Jo Donnelly was captivating – she did not only switch accent and outfit, she altered her posture, her facial expression, her movement – to the point that she was able to convey, without the use of language, whatever class and/or intellect her character came from. And then she’d speak, and her comic timing too was impeccable. It is worth paying for Forget Turkey! for the pleasure of witnessing her performance alone.
Forget Turkey! is a funny, important show. It doesn’t just tackle Northern Ireland’s issues – the wider issues of the world are covered -the international banking cartels get a fair kick too, which is always nice. It is satire, so it is not always easy, but that, I suppose, is the ultimate point – life isn’t (here or anywhere). The writers should absolutely be commended for writing a show like this. For one, it is topical, so it won’t last, and two, its broad scope is thoroughly ambitious. Thirdly, it doesn't hide from the reality of the country we live in. There are only three weeks left to see the show, and if you have any spare nights, when Christmas TV is the usual ‘safe’ guff – try something a little more provocative: as the pun in the title rightfully suggests: Forget Turkey! We’re Going to Phuket This Christmas.
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Students get 2 tickets for price of 1 on Wednesdays, subject to availability. ID required. To book phone Box Office 028 90381081.
All Northern Bank card holders are entitled to 20% discount off tickets for all shows on the Northern Bank Stage