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Review: Three's A Shroud reminds us not to take life too seriously



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

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

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

Death, religion and politics - three hot topics that are destined to spoil any soiree.

But, fuse them and add comedy writer Stephen Large of satirical Facebook page 'Dundonald Liberation Army,' and you have Three’s A Shroud,  a play that shows the funny side of Belfast’s undertaking business.

For years, undertaker Gerry McSorley, played by veteran actor B.J. Hogg, has exclusively buried Catholics.

"They bury theirs, we bury ours - That's the way it's always been."

That is, until Protestant undertaker Basil Gray (Shaun Blaney) from 'down the road' starts accepting Catholic clientele sparking the inevitable feud. That is until Polish undertaker Irena Bukowski (Nuala McGowan) lands in Belfast and undercuts them with interdenominational funerals and all at a better price.

The "us'uns against them'uns" mentality is quickly abandoned as McSorley and Gray come together to overthrow their Polish rival.

Around six minutes into the production, I regretted buying my bottle of Diet Coke as I realised most of its contents would end up on the head of the unfortunate soul who sat in the seat in front.

McSorley’s apprentice Simon Doherty (Matthew McElhinney) is as disgusted by the life-like dead bodies (and their functions) as the audience, gaining big laughs each time he gets hands on in preparing them for burial.

Three's A Shroud sees the actors skillfully play multiple parts, with McGowan succeeding at this particularly effortlessly as she doubles up as the hilarious Mrs Johnston, the cleaner in McSorley’s funeral parlour.

Blaney’s monologues were also a highlight of this four-man show, well crafted and delivered with zeal whether he was playing cult-film fanatic undertaker Gray, or Gusty Stitt’s son.

Given that it was only the second show of this year's run, there were a few fumbles that I’m sure will iron out with time. However, recovery was seldom clumsy and, in fact, probably more funny than the intended delivery.

As in many households across Northern Ireland, Give My Head Peace was part of our Friday night ritual, so the sight of Hogg clad in fishnet and leather is not an unfamiliar one. However, never did I imagine I would watch him gleefully frolicing across a stage wearing nothing but a thermal vest and a pair of baggy Y-fronts - undeniably a sight to behold, and a sure way to bring the house down.

This Martin Lynch-directed production addresses the ever-prevalent notion that our country's favourite past-time is being offended, and suggests that we not take ourselves so seriously. After all, life is truly too short.

The cast bowed out to a standing ovation after delivering the resounding message that we are better united than divided, and, at the core, we are simply all human. As McElhinney's character so eloquently put it, at the end of the day, "Prod tits, Catholic tits... All feel the same to me".

Three’s a Shroud runs in the Waterfront September 20 - October 6. Tickets priced £15.50 - £22 and are available from wwww.waterfront.co.uk

Belfast Telegraph