10 Dates with Mad Mary

Calipo Theatre Company's '10 Dates with Mad Mary'

Calipo Theatre Company's '10 Dates with Mad Mary'

This play is a result of Calipo's 'page2stage' programme for emerging young writers who are given workshops and dramaturgical support from this well established company based in Drogheda. Yasmine Akram, writer and performer, has a created a monologue piece about a foul mouthed and aggressive girl who has just emerged from a spell in prison and is trying to find her feet in the face of a dysfunctional mother and a bride-to-be sister, Charlene, who looks down on her misfortunate sibling. The ten dates of the title is the play's coat-hanger, as Mary desperately tries to find a boy to bring to her sister's upcoming nuptials. Both story and monologue form are by now well worn themes and formats and it is undoubtedly the excellent process of workshops and dramaturgical interventions, as well as the original writing, that make this a more substantial piece of theatre than it might have been.

Darren Thornton as dramaturg and director shows an acute understanding of how to make this piece stand out and avoids all the elephant traps that a less experienced theatre artist might fall into. The sometimes dark comedy is situational, often laugh-out-loud, and has the compelling ring of truth. The audience just loved the moment when Mary tells us that she's at a speed-dating evening with her mother - not as some sort of chaperone, but because she, too, is also on the hunt for a man. Later in the play in order to avenge her sister Charlene, Mary hilariously reads the lesson at her wedding mass in the thickest Drogheda accent she can muster. Other warm moments include scenes with Mary's only soul mate (her Nan) who reveals that she once had a black boyfriend, which underlines Mary's need to do her own thing and not sink back into a life of petty crime.

Mary's obstacles are many and varied. Her reputation for trouble leaves her on the wrong side of everyone: the law, nightclub bouncers - and a street map of her sad little world is included in the well-designed programme replete with mock romantic pink pages. The local references added a certain frisson for those who knew the area but this didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the ‘non-locals’. In some respects she is saddled with a reputation that she doesn't want.

Salvation lies in Mary's meeting with middle class David on her quest for a date. A promising singer/guitarist he sees past the exterior Mary and they form a promising relationship. The obligatory meal with David's family gives us a great observation from Mary who notices that they were just... "so happy". It's one of many lovely moments to which Jack Cawley adds a sound design with just the perfect amount of atmospheric music and sound effects to complement Kieran McNulty's set whose plastic coloured buckets fill with the ‘plink’ ‘plonk’ of rainwater before the play starts to convey not just the leaking roof of Mary's home, but the depressing dank situation in which she finds herself. Seven single reverberant piano notes synched with seven lamp changes was just one of the examples of Sarah Jane Shiels' lighting design adding the final touches.

Yasmine Akram's performance is an accomplished piece of work – developing an instant rapport with the audience, she gets the balance between mimicry of other characters and straight narration just right. By the end of the one hour playing time, our anti-heroine manages to alienate said David by getting outrageously drunk at one of his gigs, and loses him to a job in London - and it's entirely due to the expertly realised central character we have just invested in that we really are rooting for Mary as she sits on a plane to London to find David, a new life, and release the untapped potential of her lost soul. Everyone deserves a second chance.

John White is a Theatre Director and Workshop Facilitator.

  • Review
  • Theatre

10 Dates with Mad Mary by Yasmine Akram

27 - 30 January, 2010

Produced by Calipo Theatre Company
In Project Arts Centre

Written and performed by Yasmine Akram

Director: Darren Thornton

Set Design: Kieran Mc Nulty

Lighting Design: Sarah Jane Shiels

Sound Design: Jack Cawley