Theatre highlights of the week
Some nicknames stick forever, just ask the stars of this week’s stage. Remember to wash your hands though
Audience participation might horrify some, but at Christmas we call it pantomime. Beauty and the Beast, Everyman Theatre, Cork. Photograph: Miki Barlok
Viking Theatre, Clontarf. January 4-20 8pm €15 vikingtheatre.com
Most people will be more familiar with Mary Mallon by her nickname. An Irish immigrant in early 20th Century America, she made her way as a professional cook – and she made that way with abrupt and frequent changes to her employment as she passed through the service of various prosperous New York families. Some did not survive the encounter. By the time Mallon was apprehended and forced into quarantine she had become a national scandal. The press called her Typhoid Mary.
Twenty years ago, the playwright Eithne Mc Guinness decided to take another look at Mary, one of America’s early urban boogiepeople. Mallon insisted she was not a carrier of the disease and was unjustly persecuted by the authorities, but nor was she a believer in medical science or the value of hand washing.
Given a second chance, she changed her identity and went back to work as a cook. She infected dozens more until her death, having nearly three decades forcibly confined.
McGuinness’s play, performed by Charlotte Bradley and directed by Bairbre NíChaoimh, gives us Mary’s perspective, from 1883 and 1935. Is this a poor scapegoat, or does Typhoid Mary have us eating out of her hand?
Beauty and the Beast
Everyman Theatre, Cork. Ends January 14 everymancork.com
At any other point in the year, a radical reinterpretation of a classic text with a liberal amount of audience participation would be enough to strike terror in the hearts of theatre goers. At Christmas, we call this pantomime.
For many kids, this is an introduction to live performance and there will always be relatively new arrivals to the world who don’t know how things pan out for both Beauty and the Beast. There are many more of us who never suspected – before The Everyman and CADA told us otherwise – that they required the assistance of characters named Gasbag LaBoef, Oui Oui and Baby Beret.
These may be rare additions in panto, a form so lacquered in ritual and repetition that its only rival for unaltered spectacle may be the Latin mass – a form similarly fond of men in frocks. This year’s Everyman pantomime is a cheering blend of tradition and topical gags. Without spoiling the plot of the new production from director Catherine Mahon-Buckley, there may well be a ball in this story. If you attend this entertainment featuring Keith Hanley, Niamh O’Mahony, Ciarán Birmingham, Michael Sands, Kelly-Ann Murphy and Fionula Linehan, you might just have one.