‘Chic Murray’ focuses on the life of the eponymous ‘Comedian’s Comedian’ (played by Dave Anderson) and his wife Maidie (Maureen Carr). Told through a series of flashbacks that end where the play begins, it is simultaneously funny, nostalgic, and bittersweet. I experienced the play at lunchtime, and was still thinking about it by the time I sat down for dinner.
One of the play’s biggest strengths is the powerful overall feeling that it creates. Even before the actors enter the set, there is a nostalgic mood created through the colours onstage, the props, and the music playing. Throughout the play, Maidie’s facial expressions show when the ‘bitter’ aspect of ‘bittersweet’ starts to creep into the story. I found Carr’s performance incredible. The subtlety and depth of the emotions she portrays came across wonderfully, and really added a layer to Maidie’s character.
The fact that the actors were playing the instruments live on the set caught me by surprise in the best way. Music is an integral aspect of the story, so the decision to have the piano and accordion played onstage was a good one. Additionally, the songs themselves were lovely and performed to a high standard. The actors harmonised well with each other, and the feelings in the music came across successfully.
Another important aspect of the play is the humour. Anderson delivers Chic Murray’s comedy skits with excellent timing, drawing many laughs out of the audience. The script itself is full of funny moments as well, including but not limited to representing the birth of a child by having a bundle of blankets tossed onto the stage into Maidie’s arms. I found that each of the jokes landed well, although sometimes we were left wanting for more humor to lighten up what is, at its core, a very sad story.
In a play full of music and comedy, the saddest moment is the most silent one. This is right when Maidie leaves her husband. Anderson and Carr deliver a brilliant performance of the breakup, and after the latter walks out, the silence rings loudly. The play is structured to give this moment maximum impact, because every other scene features brilliantly-used sound effects and/or on-stage singing. When Maidie leaves, she takes much of that vibrancy with her. I was amazed at the execution of this pivotal scene.
The play itself relies on strong and recognizable characters. Anderson, Carr, and O’Sullivan truly deliver on this front – each of them bring a lot of nuance and subtlety to the stage. At times I was a little confused by the fact that O’Sullivan was playing multiple roles, but he nonetheless brought out the potential in each one. It is clear that a lot of love went into the making of this play, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for an entertaining and thought-provoking bit of theatre to enjoy over lunch.
PHOTOS: Leslie Black