Women on the verge of HRT - Get a life!
To the majority of the overwhelmingly female audience, revelling in the first homecoming of this play - Marie Jones's companion piece to Women on the Verge of HRT - its central characters, Anna and Vera, are old friends. They know them well because, in so many ways, they are them.
Anna and Vera have moved on from their annual pilgrimages to Daniel O'Donnell's bungalow in Donegal to altogether more exotic pastures.
They have come to the Gambia, in search of sun, sand, sea and, who knows, perhaps a few shenanigans with the gorgeous, young local men. Dubliner Vera is as brash and feisty as ever, her sharp tongue and no-nonsense humour covering a raw bitterness. Anna, from East Belfast, is anxious, gauche and lacking in confidence - with a mother (the marvellous Moyna Cope), who never stops complaining. Under Terry Byrne's fluid direction, Ruth Hegarty and Amanda Hurwitz are perfectly in tune with their characters, arriving like wide-eyed children into a place where, away from the tourist hotels, there is no electricity, no running water, polygamy, and only holes in the ground to pee into.
In a classic Shirley Valentine-type scenario, true and imagined romance with Louis Decosta Johnson's gentle Halif and Scott Murtagh's swaggering Abraham, watched over by Anni Domingo's wise Tassa, brings transformations all round. The side-splitting humour of the first act gives way in the second to a more reflective but rather repetitive, questioning mood, which would be all the more effective for losing a few minutes before its bizarrely joyous finale brings the capacity audience to its feet.
Women on the Verge - Get a Life! is at the Grand Opera House, Belfast until Saturday. To book phone Ticket Shop: 0801-232-241919.