THERE are a few things that could be described as quintessentially Irish: Guinness, shamrocks, the Blarney Stone, the colour green. Splinters Productions’ adaptation of JB Keane’s Letters of a Matchmaker could probably shoot for that list.
The show takes place in a small village somewhere between Kerry and Cork, where the eponymous matchmaker – Dick Mick Dicky O’Connor, played by John Shedden – has decided there aren’t enough young’uns to keep rural Ireland as traditional as it should be.
So begins his noble quest to hitch as many of the colourful singletons of his area as possible, for a small fee, of course.
The Matchmaker is presented through a series of letters between The Matchmaker and his clients; the addressee starts to read the prose and then the writer takes over, working their gift of the gab on it.
This works to a point, but the sheer amount of letters read throughout the play means that The Matchmaker stays stubbornly in second gear.
The energetic performances put in by Shedden and his myriad of clients, all of whom are portrayed with gusto by Anna Hepburn and Finlay Maclean, are not enough to break through the monotony.
This is compounded by the show’s repetitive nature.
Dick Mick Dicky’s various bachelors and bachelorettes are fun in their first scenes, but present the same character and the same joke in each of their subsequent ones. This makes many of The Matchmaker’s clients seem dull and underdeveloped.
The only exception is Hepburn’s Filula Crust, whose long suffering campaign to get a £20 refund from O’Connor provides the play’s comic highlights.
In spite of The Matchmaker’s formulaic and irreverent nature, there are pretensions to something deeper.
Problems with England, religious issues and dealing with the death of a loved one are all mentioned, but are swiftly brushed aside for the next light-hearted letter rather than tackled properly.
Despite the committed storytelling, the show never changes, causing the second half to feel like wading through a peat bog.
Providing a flitting glimpse at eccentric, but two dimensional characters, The Matchmaker is often fun, but is hardly a keeper.
Rating: * *
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