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Kitsy and the cobbler return

Going Out

MURFI MORPHS Mikel Murfi’s astounding physical and vocal versatility allows him to seemlessly morph into a myriad of different characters – and species.

Ciara Moynihan

Back in 2012, a gentle cobbler captured the affections of audiences up and down the country with his observations and his touching and genuinely funny tale of finding late-life love. The object of his affections? Kitsy Rainey – the formidable manager of the local football team.
Their story lies at the heart of ‘The Man in the Woman’s Shoes’, a one-man play by Mikel Murfi, and is taken up again in a sequel, called ‘I Hear You and Rejoice’. Mayo audiences now have a chance to catch both, as they are being staged in Westport Town Hall Theatre on Wednesday, May 22, and Thursday, May 23 respectively.
‘The Man in the Woman’s Shoes’ follows Pat Farnon as he walked the five miles from his cottage to town – breaking in Kitsy’s low-heeled shoes for her as he goes – and back again one day in 1978. Along the way he encounters a host of colourful local characters, and the audience comes to realise that Pat’s storytelling is in fact an internal monologue that he is sharing, as though in confidence. This man, who ceaselessly marvels at life’s many small wonders, has not spoken out loud since childhood.
The play deservedly enjoyed sell-out runs and won rave reviews in Ireland, the UK and the US, as well as multiple awards, including The Zebby (Irish Writers Guild) Award for Best Theatre Script. But it is Murfi’s astounding versatility, his ability to bodily and vocally inhabit characters as different as night and day – as well as bees, birds, pigs and even a dying turkey – that had theatre goers everywhere on their feet. That, and the show’s reminder to us all: Stop, smell the roses and see the good.   
Murfi’s companion piece, ‘I Hear You and Rejoice’ gives audiences a chance to catch up with Pat and the redoubtable Kitsy, and to meet a myriad of local characters, familiar and new.
Like ‘The Man in the Woman’s Shoes’, ‘I Hear You and Rejoice’ was commissioned by Sligo Arts Office and the Hawk’s Well Theatre in Sligo as part of the annual Bealtaine Festival, which every May celebrates creativity as we age.
Murfi began working on ‘The Man in the Woman’s Shoes’ in March 2012, travelling across Co Sligo to meet with older people to gather stories. Memories and tales emerged of characters who lived in Sligo town and county – authentic characters similar to those who populate every corner of this country. “I hope that I’ve somehow captured the spirit of these people in the play,” Murfi said at the time.
He also described his creation as an effort “to make something very small but at the same time very special out of a life that isn’t particularly extraordinary … [and] to say that we shouldn’t determine or be pejorative or prescriptive about age … you can say the body is older, but you can’t say that the heart and mind are older.”
Mikel Murfi has worked on some of the most-celebrated Irish theatre productions of recent years. He directed the award-winning ‘B for Baby’, by Carmel Winters, for the Abbey Theatre, as well as Enda Walsh’s ‘The Walworth Farce’ and ‘Penelope’ for Druid, winners of Scotsman Fringe First Awards. He also received an Irish Times Theatre Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Walsh’s ‘The New Electric Ballroom’ for Druid.

For tickets (€15/€12 for each performance), call Westport Town Hall Theatre’s box office on 098 28459 or visit www.westporttheatre.com.