Mrs Brown Rides Again * *
Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
Review by Terry Grimley
Vulgar trash or earthy popular theatre? Brendan O'Carroll's Mrs Brown plays seem poised between the two, but they're certainly vulgar and they're definitely popular.
For those not familiar with the phenomenon, O'Carroll is an Irish writer and comedian whose alter ego, Agnes Brown, is a redoubtable Dublin mother of a certain age. Her trademarks are chain-smoking, the relentless use of the f-word in its adjectival form and a talent for deflating one-liners.
A packed Alex for the start of this two-week run showed that she has a strong following here. In this show Agnes thinks her family are planning to put her into a home after overhearing a conversation which is actually about the ageing family dog.
There are several things about it which are very bad indeed. First is the horrible amplification, ear-splitting but still far from clear in Row E even before the technical gremlins kicked in after the interval.
Then there's the awful acting, notably from Mike Calveley as the daughter's simpering psychiatrist boyfriend, and gay characters so stereotyped as to make Are You Being Served? look like Late Review. And then there's the set, with that terrible damp-crinkled picture on the stairs.
On the credit side? O'Carroll's sheer bravado as he blusters through this extraordinarily politically incorrect spectacle. He seems to be rewriting much of it as he goes along, to judge from the mixture of discomfiture and corpsing from his fellow performers, most of who seem to be members of his family.
* Running time: Two hours, 40 minutes. Until April 21.