by Lynn on March 11, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Princess of Wales Theatre. Written, directed and starring Brendan O’Carroll.
Co-directed by Jennifer Gibney. Starring: Rory Cowan, Jennifer Gibney, Gary Hollywood, Paddy Houlihan, Danny O’Carroll, Eilish O’Carroll, Fiona O’Carroll, Dermot O’Neill, Amanda Woods.

Mrs. Brown, that Irish, bombastic, mother of a large brood, has returned to our shores to wreck hilarious havoc on us all again. This time the gist of the story is that Mrs. Brown and her family want to give Grandad Brown a wonderful funeral even though he’s not dead yet. They all (including Grandad) think it would be fun for Grandad to be ‘present’ at his own funeral to hear what people think of him. So great provisions are made to suggest that he’s died, much of it involving a drunk doctor.

Set against this are the usual trials and tribulations of the Brown family, with Mrs. Brown dealing with it all with her usual caustic humour. Eldest daughter Cathy is still single and not happy about it until she finds the ‘almost’ perfect man. But he has a secret. Son Rory has had a fight with his boyfriend Dino and is in a crying state. Her son Dermot still has trouble finding honest work—his present job is giving out leaflets dressed as a chicken. He would rather rob houses with his shady friend Buster Brady, but Dermot’s pregnant wife Maria wants him to stop.

Mrs. Brown—Brendan O’Carroll in a shapeless dress, a buttoned cardigan, comfortable shoes, a wig—folds and unfolds a cloth that she uses to wipe away imagined tears, blot her mouth, her nose, her brow, all during the course of a conversation. Everything is approached with the rudest of humour; a ‘feckin’ this’ or ‘a feckin’ that; insults to one and all on stage; and a cast that mostly can’t stop laughing at the frequent adlibs, or what appear to be adlibs. Only Jennifer Gibney as Carol keeps a straight face. Ms Gibney is also the co-director and Brendan O’Carroll’s wife.

Good Mourning Mrs. Brown is the second ‘Mrs. Brown’ play to come to Toronto since August (that one being How Now Mrs. Brown Cow). Brendan O’Carroll has written five of them. And if How Now Mrs. Brown Cow seemed funnier last August, it was probably because it was the fifth in the series to be written and is therefore more polished, while Good Mourning Mrs. Brown is in fact the second in the series, and is perhaps a bit rougher. No matter, Good Mourning Mrs. Brown is rude, irreverent, naughty, and very, very funny.

There is something almost formulaic about the Mrs. Brown series if these two shows are anything to go by. Each character has a story line. The show will have one through storyline that occupies all the characters—in Good Mourning Mrs. Brown it’s preparing Grandad’s funeral. Actors will constantly come out of character—except Ms Gibney as Cathy—and appear to break up at things Mr. O’Carroll ‘adlibs’ and they are probably all scripted too. But for all its formula, the Mrs. Brown series is a juggernaut of success. Mr. O’Carroll’s latest TV series was the highest rated show on the entire BBC. That’s saying something. It’s not high-brow humour. It’s decidedly low-brow, but if the opening night audience is any indication, it’s the kind of humour that appeals to practically the whole roaring audience. And that’s no feckin’ lie.

Good Mourning Mrs. Brown plays at the Princess of Wales theatre until March 19, 2011.

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