Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Mrs Brown Rides Again: Coarse and corny, but totally crowd-pleasing

Mrs Brown
Mrs Brown

It's a real Irish phenomenon, isn't it? Recommisioned by the Beeb year after year in spite of accusations of pandering to lazy stereotype — and a string of sold-out stage shows to boot, or at least throw a shoe at.

But enough about Give My Head Peace, last night was the opening show of the week-long run at the Odyssey of Mrs Brown Rides Again.

The Bafta-bagging, ratings-hogging shenan- igans of Mrs Brown's Boys on TV means that its creator (and Mrs Brown herself) comedian/writer Brendan O'Carroll has been able to extend the lucrative franchise of the potty-mouthed mammy to the stage and now even to our phones.

If you were one of the lucky ones last night to “mammy up your mobile” with a “hornball” or “little p***k” ringtone “for just €1.50”, it's a safe bet you're a hardened fan already.

“You're all very welcome to Mrs Brown on ice” wisecracked the filthy Dublin Matriarch in reference to the Odyssey's double-life as a venue for overgrown Canadian men to skate about together of a weekend, before adding “Like f***”.

And with that tension-bursting profanity, the show was out of the traps.

For those scant few still unfamiliar with the TV show, this was simply its live counterpart, in front of thousands.

For those well-acquainted with the show, the action in the main took place in Agnes Brown's living room with her brood of needy adult offspring about her.

She’s the foul-mouthed family fulcrum, presiding over the domestic storm in a tea cup.

Initially it seemed almost ludicrous to think that the grubby intimacy of the TV screen could be replicated in a venue more used to housing major league music gigs, but after about five minutes in the living room of Mrs Brown, something remarkable happened — the enormo-dome of the Odyssey was shrunk right down to the size of a battered couch, and familial warmth poured from the stage — which isn't surprising as the cast are almost all related to |O'Carroll in reality.

A**e imitating life as Agnes Brown might say.

The Brown buffet of filth was loaded with enough crudités to keep the audience roaring

O'Ccarroll inhabits Mrs Brown so completely that it would raise an exorcist’s eyebrow and orchestrated scenes with consummate ease.

As is now customary with the Mrs Brown vehicle, there was more mugging, corpsing and snorted lines than a night out in Larne.

A rare locally sourced gag about the “stibble” (SDLP) and Gerry Fitt was one of the few printable routines.

Elsewhere sex on a beach was described in gritty detail, which brought new meaning to the word cocktail and Durex offered much prophylactic playfulness.

Whether or not you like the curiously and endearingly quaint Mrs Brown hinges entirely upon whether you think a middle-aged man in drag delivering profanities is hilarious.

Here's the test: “There was a young sailor who sat on the dock, shaking and waving his big hairy fist.”

Laughing? That only makes you and 3,000-odd people last night. And with many more to come this week, Brendan O'Carroll certainly knows which side his (Brown) bread is buttered.

In the crazy world of female impersonation comedy, There's cross dressing, very cross dressing and then there's Mrs Brown.

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