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  • Chris O'Rourke

You Belong To Me

Clara Simpson,Kyle Hixon and Liam Carney in You Belong To Me. Photo by Ros Kavanagh


It’s odd how internationally famous, world class football players often make for mediocre managers. Conversely, a mediocre player often makes for a world class manager. Similarly in theatre when it come to writers and performers. Though it can be harder to tell given the plethora of one person shows written and performed by the same artist. But that’s like being player manager and their own football team all at the same time so it doesn’t count. Performers who write stand alone plays being a different breed entirely. As in renowned comic actor Rory Nolan and his debut comedy You Belong To Me. Where Nolan reminds you, without ever setting foot onstage, that he is an incredibly gifted performer.

Which is not to say the script falls seriously short. It might be that director Lynne Parker and cast Liam Carney, Kwaku Fortune, Kyle Hixon and Clara Simpson aren’t having their best day at the office. As a matter of…actually, no one is having their best day at the office and the script does fall seriously short. You Belong To Me being essentially a twenty minute, light entertainment, 70s sitcom episode stretched out to two hours. A George and Mildred meets The Honeymooners hybrid echoed in Alan Farquharson’s dated, kitchen sink set. Divided down the middle by a yellow line functioning as a legally binding wall. On either side of which live the quarrelling Pato and Patty. Coming up on their fortieth wedding anniversary, the couple live a court ordered division for reasons you don’t buy and aren’t exploited cleverly enough to be consistently funny. Talk of restrictive laws sounding like excuses for Stockholm Syndrome. Patty (Simpson), a wannabe dancer exuding as much charm as an inflamed haemorrhoid, feels neglected by husband Pato (Carney), a bursting blood vessel in a bland jumper more concerned with being cuckolded and indulging in midnight tea bag thefts than in his wife’s frustrations. Comic relief handyman Garry (Fortune), along with moustache twirling villian Cliff (Hixon), both pawns in the marital battle that ensues. Throw in a mysterious death, a surprise inheritance, and a spurious dance competition and this anniversary waltz becomes a tempestuous-less tango. One that energetically twirls at times only to crash headlong into the judges table, upending everything. All the while Sarah Jane Shiels’s overworked lights and Denis Clohessy’s forced, retro soundtrack further detract and distract.

Kyle Hixon, Clara Simpson, Kwaku Fortune, Liam Carney in You Belong To Me. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Throughout, Nolan can find a good line, craft snatches of scenes, but the cohesive experience eludes. You Belong To Me tantamount to a cloud of children running the length of the pitch chasing after a ball in a scoreless draw. Even its own goals get disallowed. The final scene a dive in the box looking for a penalty. Trying to introduce gravitas but falling down a Twilight Zone rabbit hole that leaves you scratching your head. As if a Laurel and Hardy sketch suddenly flipped into the death scene from Hamlet. And not in a knowingly funny way. Parker never quite getting to grips with the play’s patchy humour or sufficiently challenging the text. The whole, including performances, looking loose and a little shoddy.

Comic writing, like dancing, is a little like riding standing up. Despite good gags and some seriously humorous moments, You Belong To Me is like peering through a bedroom window from the branches at the top of the tree. Indeed, the cynical might wonder had Nolan’s name not been attached to the project would it have been produced? Might other writers not have benefitted from the same supports and resources given there's a wealth of material developed during COVID? Nolan is as entitled as anyone to try his hand at writing. Having done so, You Belong To Me proves to be a game of two halves, with neither proving particularly memorable on this occasion, despite some good shots on goal. Which you don’t enjoy saying as Nolan is regarded as one of the most likeable people in the business. Did I mention he’s an amazing comic actor? Like George Best, Pele, Maradona good? Well, he is.

You Belong To Me by Rory Nolan, presented by Once Off Productions and Smock Alley Theatre, in association with Rough Magic, runs at Smock Alley Theatre until December 21.

For more infomration visit Smock Alley Theatre


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