Holy Mary 'a pure joy and a delightful night out'

Playgoers are in for a treat next week when Eoin Colfer’s achingly funny comedy, Holy Mary, comes to the Town Hall on Tuesday, November 13, at 8pm.

It is 1986 in Dublin and two young girls are getting ready for their First Communion. Mary and Majella have been sworn enemies since baby infants, and things have got even worse since Mary's daddy moved in with Majella's mammy. Scrambling for insults to fling at each other, Majella thinks she has found a weak spot when she discovers Mary's Communion dress is from the Vincent de Paul. Will Majella use this devastating info to destroy her rival, or realise that she and Mary might not be so different after all?

In typical Eoin Colfer fashion the characters are very real and very funny. The cast of two, Mary Murray and Jacinta Sheerin, play the girls, their mothers, a benevolent priest, a patient teacher, and a misguided father in a captivating evening of theatre.

Holy Mary is directed by Aoife Spillane-Hinks, a graduate of NUIG’s MA in drama and theatre studies and a highly regarded director on today’s circuit.

“We get Mary’s story in the first act, where she describes her nemesis Majella who bullies her relentlessly, and in the second act we get Majella’s side of the story,” Spillane-Hinks tells me in describing the play. “You are totally on Mary’s side when you are watching the first act and you think that Majella is the most horrid child that ever walked the earth, but in the second act you see the other side and why Majella behaves as she does. We also see that Mary’s version was not entirely accurate and she had a hand in causing the troubles. Not only is Holy Mary a story about a little girl’s First Communion, it becomes about how two girls who have every reason to be enemies, because Mary’s dad has left home to be with Majella’s mum and had a baby with her, but over the two acts they find a way toward being friends.”

One of the play’s many strengths is how it humanises the issue of bullying between the two girls. “One of the most powerful things that theatre can do is to remind us that everybody has a story,” Spillane-Hinks notes. The things that go on in these little girls’ lives are not just about them being bold or mean, they come out of the fears and hopes that they each have and the play shows us both sides of that. A child’s understanding of what happens is often a very coloured version of the truth so both little girls only see what they have done right and what the other person has done wrong, but it is always more complicated than that and by the end of the play they each get to see that. A big reason why Eoin Colfer gets this so well in the writing is that he was a primary school teacher himself so he knows how children behave.”

Spillane-Hinks enthuses about her two actors, Mary Murray and Jacinta Sheerin, and how well they fit their roles; “The play is set in 1986 which, co-incidentally, is when both our actors were making their own Communions so a lot of the rehearsal process entailed going back to those moments from their lives. When I was casting the show I wanted actors who could connect with children’s spirit of mischief and imagination and boldness and Mary and Jacinta both have that in spades. Both actors are from Dublin and both have incredible comic talent which they show in the play, but they are also actors with a huge amount of heart. You cannot just go for the laughs in this show because it too has a lot of heart and has a lot to say about what it is like to be a child and to reckon with complicated and grown up things when you are still very small, and Mary and Jacinta were both able to bring that awareness to the stage.”

“Holy Mary is a pure joy and a delightful night out,” Spillane-Hinks concludes. “It would appeal to everyone from kids to adults and it resonates so well in different ways with people of different generations.”

Booking for Holy Mary can be made via the Town Hall at www.tht.ie

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