Belfast Telegraph

Review: Arlene and Michelle’s frosty relationship warms up in fun and festive road trip to Rio


By Grania McFadden

Like the Queen of Spades and the Queen of Diamonds, Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill are very different, but share a lot in common.

Both are strong women, leading their respective political parties in Northern Ireland.

Behind their differences, do they have a sneaking admiration for each other?

Playwright Rosemary Jenkinson imagines so - and she's thrown them both together again for a new set of adventures in Ulster Says Snow!

It's winter, and the pair are feeling the cold.

Funds are running low, thanks to the Secretary of State's decision to cut MLA salaries.

Maybe it's time they found real jobs?

Performed on the tiny stage at Accidental Theatre, with a black backdrop and a bench for props, Maria Connolly and Mary-Frances Doherty assume the positions of political powerhouses who are feeling the pinch.

Aided by some clever graphics and TV footage, the scene is set for a fast-moving hour in what's billed as a 'craic-er of a satire'.

Connolly is resplendent as Foster, complete with Crown brooch and phone that plays the National Anthem as its ringtone.

She's struggling to make ends meet, and plans to install central heating in her chilly Fermanagh home have fallen foul of the political stalemate at Stormont.

A cold house for Protestants, indeed.

Doherty's bright, chatty O'Neill is a contrast to her stern, severe counterpart.

She too is low on funds, and there are hair straighteners to be bought, and appearances to be maintained.

What's a woman to do? The pair bury their differences and set out to seek work.

Jenkinson depicts two women who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and get down to business - as long as it doesn't involve Brexit or the Irish language, and enhances their private, rather than the public purse.

This is a party for two.

The evening is broken up into short scenes interspersed with video clips and songs - some of them from the DUP leader's new album, Arlene Foster Sings Christmas.

While seeing our political leaders slumming it with the rest of us is always worth a few laughs, it's what's left unsaid that is funnier.

Arlene, it seems, has a soft spot for the Sinner.

Michelle, in turn, has set her sights on her party's leader, Mary Lou McDonald.

The undercurrent between the pair is so unlikely and outrageous that you can't help but smile.

And love won't conquer the heating bills, despite RHI.

So when the deputy finance minister from Brazil flies in, looking to invest some hot cash in Northern Ireland, the scene is set for a diplomatic trip to Rio, where the pair hit on a fund-raising scheme that will sort out their problems.

It's nip and tuck whether they'll make it home in one piece.

Before they touch down, they encounter a closer-than-expected encounter with a Brazilian, and are given a bit of a bum steer.

Jenkinson has clearly had enormous fun following the leaders.

Where they'll take her next is anyone's guess.

Belfast Telegraph


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