Mojo Mickybo

Two stunningly energetic performances keep Owen McCafferty’s Mojo Mickyboy, courtesy of Bruiser Theatre Company, rolling along at a cracking pace that provides an hour of action-packed entertainment at the Union Theatre, Southwark.

Two stunningly energetic performances

The production requires close attention and considerable concentration. Such is the pace, that with a momentary wandering of the mind, it would be easy to miss a scene or two as Michael Condron (Mojo) and Terence Keeley (Mickybo) hurtle through adventure after adventure as two nine-year-old boys. It’s the creative, imaginative speed at which kid’s used to function in the days when playing in the street or the woods was the norm and it was possible to be anybody and anywhere in a world of make-believe. For these two lads the weekly trip to the cinema has opened up the world of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which they joyfully recreate, be it where they live, on the estates of sectarian Belfast in the 70s, or by taking a bus from there to a terminus in the middle of nowhere and imagining it to be Bolivia. Their games also give sound designer Garth McConaghie and lighting designer James C McFetridge something to play with too, which they do very effectively throughout.

The boys are the principal characters, but their families, the rival gangs, parents and a host of others are brought into the action. Each soon becomes an easily identifiable member of the community as the guys flick from one person to another with impressive changes of accent and tone of voice combined with the creation of a repertoire of idiosyncratic mannerisms and postures. There is a great deal of humour in all of this generated by the delivery and agility of Condron and Keeley and the dynamic chemistry that exists between them; all of which director Lisa May has used to maximum effect.

That aside, there are issues with the play and the production. The volume of the banter is often ear-piercingly and relentlessly loud. Stuart Marshall’s set, an artistic composition in wood, is evocative of a debris playground in a violence-torn city. It works well for places to hide in, run around and jump off, but does nothing to pad the walls to soften the echo that often distorts lines, necessarily and naturally delivered with Northern Irish accents.

That life is not all fun and games is often hinted at through scenes that depict the realities of home life and the boys’ surroundings. But they are often very subtle and even when made explicit lack development or in-depth consideration. Maybe it’s a reflection of their world, in which the uncomfortable and unpleasant are washed under the carpet of imagined other worlds as a survival strategy, but as a piece of theatre, it leaves a sense of not being fully satisfied; of wanting to know what is really going on under the surface.

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The Blurb

Mojo Mickybo is about a friendship between two nine-year-old boys from opposing sides of the sectarian divide growing up in Belfast over the summer of 1970. Played as theatrical flashback, often inhabiting a world of fantasy, the two constantly slip in and out of roles and imaginary worlds. With the sectarian violence of The Troubles only obliquely impacting on them, their friendship at first is immune, but is finally destroyed in a way that they only later come to understand.

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