Scribbling a raucous comedy crowd-pleaser of a play can be as demanding as writing esoteric theatre.
Highbrow works don’t have to entertain large numbers; a muted reaction can be excused as meaning the audience didn’t ‘get’ what the artist was saying. Maybe he’s a visionary before his time.
With popular theatre, you get bums on seats or you’re a bum, yourself. Grab the laughs or grab the next bus out of town.
Brendan O’Carroll, the star and author of How Now Mrs Brown Cow, won’t be flashing a bus pass anytime soon.
The latest instalment in his Mrs Brown series of comedies is hugely popular with a Birmingham audience. It’s crude, sentimental and paper-thin in parts.
But it’s also very funny – and works.
This is largely due to O’Carroll, who is one of the savviest comic performers to have trodden the boards.
Dressed in drag, he is Mrs Brown, the elderly, bossy matriarch of a boisterous Dublin family.
One of Mrs Brown’s sons is a priest in Boston, and she hopes he will return for Christmas. But that looks increasingly unlikely, though none of her family want to tell her the bad news...
Mrs Brown is really a one-man show disguised as a play. O’Carroll mugs and improvises to boisterous effect. Often the only business left to his fellow performers is to stop themselves guffawing along with the audience.
They rarely succeed. Some theatrical snobs might be sniffy about such a show, but it’s hard to argue with peels of laughter.
My humble opinion? Brendan O’Carroll is a visionary for his time.
Until March 27