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  • Chris ORourke

New York: Charolais

Noni Stapleton in Charolais. Photo by Futoshi Sakaushi


A Mother’s Love

After a lust filled moment in the barn one night, Siobhan discovers she’s pregnant. Jimmy, the father and object of her desire, is mildly delighted. He promises he really will tell his Mammy, Breda, about the baby. It’s just Breda doesn’t really like Siobhan so it needs to be handled carefully. Yet Siobhan suspects there may be more to Jimmy’s hesitation than fear of how Mammy will respond to the news. Indeed, Siobhan suspects she may have a rival for Jimmy’s affections. A rival who’s blonde, beautiful, and French. And who just happens to be a Charolais heifer. One who might very well see the sharp end of a knife if she’s not careful. A sweeping family saga, steeped in sex, death and dark desires, “Charolais,” written and performed by Noni Stapleton, is a heartfelt, award winning, beast of a production. A dark comedy overflowing with laughter and tears, built around a stunning, one-woman performance.

Noni Stapleton in Charolais. Photo by Sally Anne Kelly

In “Charolais” the maternal instinct and the killer instinct are never far apart. As a result, “Charolais” walks a delicate tightrope between the dark and the light, the comic and tragic, evoking both with great finesse. If Stapleton’s sharply observed script takes a moment to establish itself, once it does it keeps you firmly in its grip. Narratively, you might argue the appearance of the Charolais isn’t strictly necessary, and risks seeming a little gimmicky, even if it does showcase Stapleton’s incredible versatility as a performer. Yet it does provide some delightful comic relief. For those unfamiliar with Irish rhythms and phrasings, Stapleton quickly establishes clear lines of communication. Within no time you are completely absorbed into Stapleton’s universe and it all makes sense. Director, Bairbre Ní Chaoimh, directs with a light but definite touch, letting Stapleton display her considerable talent while ensuring pace never falters, marrying dramatic urgency to an exquisite sense of comic timing.

Seriously seductive and superbly performed, it’s no surprise that “Charolais” has won, or been nominated for, countless awards, including a nomination for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award. A tragically funny tale, “Charolais” will have you laughing out loud while breaking your heart. Throughout it all Stapleton is irresistible, delivering a tour-de-force performance not to be missed.

“Charolais” by Noni Stapleton, produced by Fishamble: The New Play Company, runs at 59E59 Theaters until September 24th

For more information on times and tickets, visit 59E59 Theaters

For information on other Fishamble productions, visit Fishamble: The New Play Company

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