• Chris O'Rourke

Next Please...


Aisling O'Mara and Hazel Cifford in Next Please... Image by Michael-David McKernan.


*****


When it comes to first dates, Joe and Melissa are having an unmitigated disaster. Comments about wanker coffees and woeful shoe choices proving more ice than icebreaker. And that's within the first five minutes. In Aisling O'Mara's divinely charming Next Please… nominated for Best New Play, Irish Times Theatre Awards 2021, you wouldn't put money on love conquering all, or on any sort of happy ever after. Even as you won't be able to stop yourself from falling wildly in love with this sweetheart of a production.

Aisling O'Mara and Hazel Cifford in Next Please... Image by Michael-David McKernan.


In a genius move, O'Mara structures her modern day rom-com around a subversion of the three act play; namely two monologues and a duet. Monologues serving up character studies in which we first encounter Joe, a self assured lesbian who loves her Nan, her job in Tesco, and being independent. Followed by Melissa, a nurse with rampant insecurity, who's unsure of her sexuality, and who got dumped by her fiancé three weeks before their wedding. Having established both characters with finesse and charm, O'Mara winds them up and lets them loose on each other in a brilliantly conceived third act. In which, if Joe owns her life's mistakes, Melissa feels like she is one. Love's labours hilariously played out in the bandstand of a park, courtesy of Andrew Murray's simple set and Colm Maher's lights. Both knowing their real job is to stay out of the way of two brilliant performances from O'Mara as Melissa and Hazel Clifford as Joe. Even if their singing and dancing suggest they shouldn't start a girl band anytime soon.

Hazel Cifford and Aisling O'Mara in Next Please... Image by Michael-David McKernan.


Under Iseult Golden's superb direction the chemistry between Clifford and O'Mara crackles. A little opening show jitters and exuberance aside, Clifford's confident, powerhouse performance offset by O'Mara's restrained, awkward vulnerability make for a near perfect combination. Like fine wine and cheese. Or a pint and a packet of crisps. Or Westlife and...nope, I've got nothing. Individually, O'Mara and Clifford are astonishing, together they're simply irresistible. Originally produced in June 2021 as an outdoor performance in response to COVID, (with the inimitable Sarah Morris as Joe), remounted here as a piece of indoor theatre, Next Please… proves to be the tastiest thing on Bewley's menu. The best treat you'll give yourself all day. Not to be missed.


Next Please… by Aisling O'Mara, run at Bewley's Café Theatre till September 10.


For more information visit Bewley's Café Theatre

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