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Women's woes, going nowhere

SHUSH - A review

A sitcom. It looks and sounds a lot like a sitcom. And, just as most sitcoms rely on co-operative props and dodgy cabinets to fall apart on cue, Shush gives us both a misfiring kitchen and a death-trap living room. At one point, a radiator falls off the wall. It says a lot.

I know what you're thinking: a play about five women (three of them in their 50s/60s, the other two still clinging to their 30s/40s) sharing secrets and Bacardi on a girls' night in isn't exactly the ideal production for a bloke. Rubbish. Anything goes, as long as it's well-written and sharply presented.

Shush is undoubtedly sharp. It's got some decent one-liners. Deirdre Donnelly is very good as Breda, the birthday girl. But where it succeeds in providing laughs and visual gags that'd fit right in on Mrs Brown's Boys, it fails in its attempts to bring something new to the table.

There are jokes concerning chocolate and sex. One of the girls breaks into song and ponders the meaning of Killing Me Softly. The dim-witted Irene (Ruth Hegarty) confuses chlamydia with cholesterol. Ursula (Niamh Daly), the posh one, recounts the horror of using public transport. You can see where this is going. It's even got its own theme music. And it would be fine if it weren't so forced; so melodramatic, so ... dated.

Tricky

We probably don't need another play where everyone gets drunk and says things they shouldn't. Writer Elaine Murphy reckons we do. And so, the girls top up their glasses every five minutes, parading around Breda's gaff and reminding her of the woman she used to be (a Butlins' dance champion).

Shush doesn't hold back. It knows where it's going and so do we. It just takes a while to get there. In the end, it tries to be serious and heartbreaking, but in a play that prides itself on soap opera themes and barely formed relationships, that's always going to be tricky.

If the actors cared more about each other, then Shush might have been something special. Yet still, there's the problem of Marie (Barbara Brennan) and her punchlines. They're too rehearsed, and far too predictable. And that sums up the entire show. HHIII

Running until July 20.


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