Anyone who has seen Marie Jones’s Women on the verge of HRT will understand the layers of ironic comedy with which, this play is layered.

Vera and Anna have made the trip to Donegal to see their singing idol Daniel O’Donnell. Vera has been abandoned by her husband and Anna is content to dream of Daniel whilst sustaining a loveless marriage. Singing waiter, Fergal, invites the women to join him at dawn. In a series of dream-like meetings the women confront their spouses and each other. Neil Martin’s country-style songs enhance this easily-staged, telling look at the spirit of women.

These are ladies d’un certain age, the French put it, or, as playwright Marie Jones states, with much humour and not a hint of equivocation, on the verge of HRT (hormone replacement therapy). They are on a pilgrimage to view, worship and have tea with the object of their desire, Daniel O’Donnell, the kind of man, every Irish mammy, wants her daughter to bring home. In their dreams.

So, it was the last night of a sold-out, three week run for the play in Dublin’s Gaeity Theatre, a grand old relic of the music hall/theatre days, still intact. I’d been at the opening but the theatre director encouraged me to come along for the last night, too. She said it would be a really good show but offered no specific information.

Now, the opening night had been funny, as funny as Marie Jones’s plays always are. But,  remembering that first night, I wasn’t sure I could face another night of ‘verging on the panic side of oestrogen’. The show was packed to the door of women of a certain age, the very object of the play’s drama. It was as though they’d taken a break from the endless Daniel O’Connell fan club circuit – they were like a middle aged, Irish female version of Grateful Dead fans – and hitched their wagons to Marie Jones and her insightful and hilarious production.

Ten minutes in the theatre for the play’s closing night and I knew I was in that same hormonal maelstrom; they cheered, they laughed, they raged, they swooned and I felt nervous.

Onstage, the singing waiter, Fergal, has changed from his daytime uniform of efficient, friendly waiter with a glint in his eye, to a spangly suited, country singer, eliciting swoons and sways for his moves and croons. He’s just about the break into song, to sing a song that’s especially significant for one of our heroine’s, who has her back turned to him, when Fergal gets a tap on the shoulder, he turns and yes, it’s Daniel, in the flesh.

‘Oh, Jesus, the fool’, I thought, ‘does he know what he’s about to unleash?’

Undaunted. Daniel’s there to make a guest appearance, for this audience of his most loyal fans at a play that takes an ironic swipe at them. Of course, his arrival onstage, sparks pandemonium. Forget Tom Jones, I’m thinking, Daniel is about to be smothered by an avalanche of shapewear and contour control briefs. The noise threatens to raise the roof, shiver the timbers and dismantle the building. It took me two minutes to hit the pavement. Nobody died, Daniel probably sold a couple of hundred Cds and a theatre full of women on the verge of HRT, went home, content.

3 thoughts on “Daniel on the Verge

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