The Big Yum Yum
Patrick McCabe’s play is a hilarious circus of the half-demented
Kate O’Toole as Connie and Geraldine Plunkett as Mammy Sweetheart. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
The Big Yum Yum
Half Moon Theatre, Cork
It’s probably permissible to describe Pat McCabe’s first play as a revenge tragedy. It is also hilarious. Corcadorca’s production spares no blows as the tragedy of The Big Yum Yum opens on a family celebration of the 80th birthday of its matriarch, Mammy Sweetheart. Anything but sweet, she holds these adult children in thrall as revenge for the abuse inflicted by her late husband, a broadcasting celebrity whose favourite weapons were his golf clubs.
In those days of showbands and The Hucklebuck, conventional women went to the Catholic Church for help, and mammy was told to “offer it up”. So she did, but now the helpful and disgraced Monsignor is here to share the party goods, the big yum-yum birthday cake, and to endorse the reminiscences of lives collapsed under the fantasy of their days as the Stars of Bel Air. These are interrupted by unpredictable, explosive, hopeless outbursts, splintering any narrative that might be in danger of developing.
Catching something of McCabe is no easy task. The darkness of this play is disguised by its grotesqueries of character and event, as when the daughter-in-law goes for the birthday cake with an electric carving knife. Metaphor is intentional, and director Pat Kiernan lets allusion gather strength as Mammy presides over the mayhem of her party as if it were afternoon tea.
The brilliant cast of Brendan Conroy, Donagh Deeney, Ciaran McIntyre, Kate O’Toole and Geraldine Plunkett as the inexorable Mammy sets out to capture Pat McCabe, and they do, with relish and commitment.
As we watch these half-demented people continue to offer it up, Aedín Cosgrove’s lighting reveals the transparent walls of her set and Maurice Seeger’s music sharpens the wistful memories of the showband era.
When Kate O’Toole’s Connie sings The Day that the Circus Left Town and all the stars come out overhead, one can’t ignore a shared joy that McCabe’s circus is back in town. Until October 19