Belfast Telegraph

Three's a Shroud: The funny side to Belfast's undertaking business

Review

By Jonathan Bell

Religion, good for two things in Northern Ireland - death and jokes.

And in Three's a Shroud, running at the Waterfront as part of the Belfast Comedy Festival, it combines the two.

It tells the story of Belfast undertakers, Gerry McSorely and Basil Gray. For generations Catholic undertakers in Belfast have buried Catholics and Protestant undertakers have buried Protestants.  But as Basil takes over his family business, he decides there is no reason he can't cross the streams.

And so begins "tit-for-tat" burials between the two.

That is until young Irena Bukowski enters the fray offering cut-price, new-age, interdenominational funerals - hence 'Three's a Shroud'.

"Typical," says Gerry, "them coming over here taking our dead bodies."

Irena's entry into the undertaking market forces Gerry and Basil into a pact akin to that between Hitler and Stalin, which inevitably results in the three being forced together in a desperate chase to avoid the loyalist and republican paramilitaries.

Lewd, crude and rude is the order of the day - the old-school type comedy that batters you about the face, the type the Hole in the Wall Gang and latterly Mrs Brown have made a living off and forced into the mainstream.

Written by Stephen Large who rose to prominence with the satirical Facebook page 'Dundonald Liberation Army,' it does not hold back. Brexit and Trump have to be mentioned, and given the setting, so too does Barra Best.

Some of the jokes you could see coming from as far out as Bangor but Graham Stitt's eulogy for his Da - Gusty - was something special both in delivery and content. You could tell Shaun Blaney loved every moment of it and so did the crowd.

Rehearsal for Three's A Shroud at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
Rehearsal for Three's A Shroud at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
Dress Rehearsal for Three's A Shroud at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
Dress Rehearsal for Three's A Shroud at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
Dress Rehearsal for Three's A Shroud at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
Dress Rehearsal for Three's A Shroud at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
Dress Rehearsal for Three's A Shroud at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
Dress Rehearsal for Three's A Shroud at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
Dress Rehearsal for Three's A Shroud at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
Dress Rehearsal for Three's A Shroud at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
Dress Rehearsal for Three's A Shroud at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
Dress Rehearsal for Three's A Shroud at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
Dress Rehearsal for Three's A Shroud at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.

The production is tight and well put together - as you would expect from Martin Lynch. Although the timing, at brief moments was a little out but will improve with the run. Not that the Belfast Friday night crowd cared. They lapped it up.

As for the cast. The quartet of BJ Hogg, of Uncle Andy fame don't you know, Blaney as Basil Gray, Matthew McElhinney (son of Marie Jones and Ian McElhinney) and newcomer Nuala McGowan don't disappoint. They play a multitude of roles - and particularly in the case of McGowan, you'd swear it was someone different each time.

Three’s A Shroud is loosely based on a true story and as with everything in Northern Ireland these days you are left thinking, "you couldn't make it up," except they have.

The show runs until 21 October with tickets from £15.50 to £21.50 and available on 028 9033 4455, online at www.waterfront.co.uk, or from the Waterfront box office.

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