THE IRISH TIMES – FRIDAY NOV 9th, 2007
‘compassionate, insightful, and extremely funny’
‘O’Kane has marvellous comic timing’
Geraldine Aron’s My Brilliant Divorce has been one of Druid’s most successful recent shows. Premiering in 2001, this one-woman comedy originally featured American actor Glenne Headly as the unwilling divorcee Angela. The play then transferred to the West End, with Dawn French starring in a production that was later nominated for an Olivier Award.
Directed by Garry Hynes, this revival provides a welcome opportunity for Irish audiences to become acquainted with the play. We also get a chance to hear the script being delivered in an Irish accent for the first time, with Deirdre O’Kane providing a tremendously entertaining performance in the central role.
That casting decision proves hugely important. The original production was often impressive, but it was also difficult to understand why Druid was staging it. Because Headly delivered her lines in her own accent, the play’s Irish elements seemed forced: it therefore felt like Druid had missed an opportunity to comment on divorce in Ireland, choosing instead to present something much closer to American sitcom. That production was also over-dependent on technological gadgetry such as voice-overs and visual projections – which at times felt like an attempt to distract the audience from what seemed an insubstantial script.
By depending almost entirely on O’Kane’s skills as an actor and comedian, Hynes allows us to engage completely with a play that now seems compassionate, insightful, and extremely funny. As expected, O’Kane has marvellous comic timing, especially when exploring the thin line in sexual matters between desire and humiliation. She also fully exploits the comedic potential of accents, providing the voices of all of the play’s supporting characters. But what most impresses is her ability to control the audience – not just with humour, but also with the use of silence, stance and gesture to signal changes of direction in the plot.
With so much to enjoy, does it matter if the conclusion contradicts everything that Angela says about gender, self-worth and individuality? Probably not – because what’s being offered here is an opportunity to spend 80 minutes in a roomful of people who sound like they haven’t laughed so much in ages.
SUNDAY INDEPENDENT - November 11th, 2007
'timed to perfection, delivered with gusto'
'a funny, funny piece'
Divorce isn’t brilliant; it hurts. That’s the message that comes through loud and clear in Geraldine Aron’s My Brilliant Divorce, revived by Druid with Deirdre O’Kane as the performer/actor. What also comes through is that it’s a mildly brilliant piece with self-deprecating irony the dominant mood.
Angela Lipsky is an Irish ex-pat (as is Aron), married to accountant Max in London, known not so affectionately to his wife as “Roundhead”. He walks out for a Mexican nymphet called Rosa (“the poser”), leaving Angela to battle through self-discovery, misery and thoughts of suicide. She is even reduced to calling the helpline for “people experiencing suicidal tendencies” (PESTS), and, the daughter of a doctor herself, she also suffers as her GP point out from a number of maladies engendered by LAMB (Laymen with Access to Medical Books).
This is a funny, funny, piece, and wildly politically incorrect: there’s no pussy-footing around with a “wronged woman” syndrome. But under the fun there’s a picture of just how messy and painful divorce is with its power to embitter, its sense of loss, and its financial reductionism. It is also a hopeful tonic: there’s life out there after divorce – rough, tough, and realistic, for women and men alike.
Garry Hynes directs O’Kane, a comedy stand-up artist who clearly shows her background in straight theatre, in a partnership that shows both to advantage, timed to perfection, delivered with gusto, and performed with real emotional understanding. It’s designed by Francis O’Connor, lit by Barry O’Brien, with rather iffy sound (microphones? For a theatrical performance?), and was at the Town Hall in Galway, touring to Ennis, Letterkenny, Longford, Sligo, Thurles and Kilkenny.