Ireland's Got Mammies

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Never underestimate the power of a strong angle. Colm O’Regan might not be the most famous comedian playing Kilkenny’s Cat Laughs Festival – but he can certainly draw a crowd, thanks to the universal appeal of a show called Ireland’s Got Mammies.

It is based on his cult Twitter feed, @irishmammies, which tweets the shared folk wisdom of an entire generation, using the clichés and distinctive language with which every Irish family will be all-too familiar. It is about to spawn a book, and this live show fills the 250-capacity Set Theatre.

Familiarity is the key. O’Regan gets a laugh every time he spouts a phrase that the audience recognise from their own mammy – or might even have found themselves uttering. Obsessions with weather, the tea, cooking and how the neighbours’ children are doing are all reflected back, with the comic perfectly capturing the right cadence and turns of phase he’s had a lifetime to study.

There seems to be an endless supply of sayings, but as an example some of the more recent from the Twitter account include: ‘You'll get another wear out of that’; ‘I HOPE now you weren't involved in that carry-on last night.. You'd be better off steering clear of the likes of them’ and ‘Oh it's lovely I know but you'd no more LOOK at it and it would get dirty.’

While the idea is strong, and the accuracy is beyond doubt, there are problems with this as show. The more minor one involves the complete reliance on PowerPoint, which means you find yourself reading words on a screen rather than listening to O’Regan saying the very-same thing. There are times when he uses it to good effect, but making bullet points of the way the show is going to unfold certainly isn’t one of them.

It seems to suggest a fear of the exposure of speaking to an audience without props – an idea reinforced by the gimmicky set pieces involving audience interaction that rarely run smooth.

More significantly, the show is stymied by formula. Every section follows the same pattern: What if Facebook was designed by Irish mammies? What would sat nav be like if optimised for Irish mammies? What if the Twilight books featured more Irish mammies? What if Irish mammies wrote the leaving cert exam papers? What if Irish mammies wrote newspaper headlines? And so on and so on…

All of these produced lines that resonate, often pretty funny ones, but the unwavering format brings a feeling that this is a one-note idea, when surely the formidable character of the mammy would fit more varied and nuanced situations. A director would do wonders for this… although perhaps after decades of being brought up by an Irish mammy, O’Regan is wary about inviting any more advice into his life.

Review date: 5 Jun 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Kilkenny Set Theatre

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