Review: I Hear You And Rejoice (Tricycle Theatre)

Mikel Murfi returns with his sequel to ”The Man In Woman’s Shoes”

Mikel Murfi in I Hear You and Rejoice
Mikel Murfi in I Hear You and Rejoice
© Pat Redmond

Mikel Murfi contains multitudes – still. The Irish actor can fill a one-man show with people: men, women, children. He brings whole villages to life: squeaky schoolboys, rambunctious priests and gabbling gossips, all – an entire parish in a single person. Murfi is legion and it is quite a thing to watch.

A sequel to last year’s The Man In Woman’s Shoes, though it stands alone, I Hear You and Rejoice takes us back to the small Irish town of Sligo, back to its blather and its blarney, and back to the gentle mute at the heart of the local community, the cobbler Pat Farnon. When he tries to speak – and we get glimpses of it – his jaw locks, his lips crinkle and an inchoate groan sounds out. Words just won’t come. Again, Murfi takes us inside his head, revealing the observant, articulate soul within. Again, he gives voice to the voiceless.

If the first piece found Pat on the move, treading in his customers’ shoes and soaking up Sligo’s secrets, the second finds him sat still. He’s perched on a church pew at his wife’s funeral. Kitsy Rainey, the life and soul of Sligo, has shaped her own service. That’s the sort of woman she was – exuberant, uncensored, noisily joyful. "Heaven," says the parish priest, "must have needed a shake-up." In life, she proclaimed herself the Holy Ghost’s sister. Based on the eulogies offered up, you can well believe it. Call her Community Spirit.

This is a show that abounds with love – so much that, in many ways, it struggles to find the words for it. Pat stands for the inadequacy of language – the impossibility of expressing grief or pinning a person down in words. He drifts in and out of the service, floating off into memories of private moments. The question arises: What eulogy could contain Kitsy Rainey? How could speech sum up what she and Pat shared? Grief goes beyond words. Love transcends language.

I Hear You and Rejoice is the tighter of the two pieces, pulled together around this idea of speech. Pat is surrounded by chatterboxes. Priests sermonise from the pulpit, commentators holler into their microphones, and a schoolboy squawks every last verse of a local folk song. Murfi embodies them all in a series of dazzling sixpence turns. His shoulders hunch and relax; his voice soars and drops.

But it works less through words than through feeling. Through Pat, you feel like you’ve known Kitsy Rainey all your life – a feeling enhanced by familiarity from the first show – and, invited into his head, you see her through the eyes of the one man who knew her better than anyone. "Surely," Pat muses, "she was the most beautiful woman that ever water washed." Again, you believe it. Kitsy’s life force comes through and, you think, she contained multitudes too.

I Hear You And Rejoice runs at the Tricycle Theatre until 1 July 2017.

Read our interview with Mikel Murfi