Charolais: Everyman Palace, Reviewed by Colette Sheridan ★★★★ The Irish Examiner, Sat 16 May 2015
Ostensibly, this one-woman show, written and performed by Noni Stapleton, is a comedy about a young, love-lorn woman in competition with a heifer for the object of her affections. But this amusing play is more than bucolic frippery. Siobhan, who is not unlike the comedienne Katherine Lynch, but much less vulgar, is possessed by an overwhelming lust and a steadfast love for an uncommunicative farmer. Jimmy. He lives with his widowed mother, Breda, “a thundering bitch”, as Siobhan describes her. But Siobhan is not a black- and-white character, despite her blunt putdown. She has depth and empathises, however briefly, with Breda’s loneliness and the terrible memory of the year when the farm’s herd of cattle was wiped out. This triggered the death of Breda’s husband and changed Breda.
All Siobhan wants is to settle down with Jimmy, who is portrayed in evocative language as a great, and mostly silent, hunk of a man. He brings out the earthiness and sensuousness in Siobhan. But even when she becomes pregnant with Jimmy’s child, she notes that he seems more concerned about the “swollen ankles” of the gestating cow than her own, pregnancy-related ailments. She fantasises about killing the beast and faking an ‘accident’ to get rid of the oppressive Breda. The last thing you would expect in an Irish rural drama is a parody of Edith Piaf. But Stapleton, singing ‘La Vie en Rose’ and speaking in Franglais, is all Gallic sexiness, luxuriating in a French accent, and conveying what an unsophisticated Irish girl might not otherwise be able to. Stapleton has strong stage presence and slips in and out of the characters with ease, conjuring up a tense house- hold and Siobhan’s all-consummg desire. There are touching moments, such as when she says that she misses her dead parents. Loneliness is a subtle, but recurring, theme in this show. In the meantime, there is the pressing matter of who is going to get the bullet — and how.
Image by Sally Anne Kelly