Rose Henderson has been awarded a Screen Ireland Actor as Creator Grant to make a short film about Alzheimer’s. We are excited to announce additional funding is being made available by Memory Health who provide nutritional supplements for the prevention and/or treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. (See Memory Health.com)
This short film will be based on the play, Take Off Your Cornflakes, and will star Rose Henderson and Pat Nolan, with appearances by Sorcha Furlong, Helena White and Clare Monnelly. We have completed the final cut and are very excited to announce that the film will premier at the Galway Film Fleadh in July under the Actor As Creator Short Films banner. More information will be posted when we know the exact date and whether we can attend in person or online.
Starring Rose Henderson and directed by Caroline FitzGerald
According to Sydney, everything has gone
into decline: morality, masculinity, social behaviour… According to Sydney, the colour green should
be outlawed. According to Sydney, plays
should be dark, funny and short.
Rose Henderson plays Ruth, a law graduate who
has been married for many years to the opinionated Sydney, who has sadly died. It’s important to spot the warning signs when
a loved one is driving you over the edge, but did Ruth help him on his
way? Did she go too far, in the end? Who is the woman who turned up at his
funeral, wearing red shoes? Ruth didn’t
mean to kill him… but in the end, something had to give.
One woman on a park bench, coming to a park, theatre or cul-de-sac near you.
Performed in 2020 in:
White Rock Beach
Clugga Co Wexford
Axis Arts Centre, Ballymun
Cloughjordan Eco Village, Co Tipperary
St. John’s Theatre, Listowel
Dunamaise Arts Centre, PortLaoise
Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda
An Tain Arts Centre, Dundalk
Lexicon Library, DunLaoghaire as part of their Plays in the Park Series
THE COURTHOUSE ARTS CENTRE, TINAHELY Saturday 15 May, 8.30pm Box Office: 0402 38529 firstname.lastname@example.org Tickets €16/€14
Tom and Trish have celebrated their Silver Wedding Anniversary but what happens when he wakes up with a strange woman beside him and she tells him she’s his wife? Trish has to make a choice, which she does, armed only with humour, music and love.
This play is inspired by Rose’s Dad, Jack, who had Alzheimer’s and couldn’t remember he had cancer.
“He taught us about staying in the present, because that’s where he lived. We had to learn to never ask a question that didn’t have the answer in the room. His intelligence made life a crossword puzzle to be solved. I believe humour is the only way to survive if this topic visits you.“
Who am I without my past? Who am I without my partner? When we go out of our mind, where do we go?
You will laugh, you may cry, but you will find a tender story of the true meaning of love.
Show in a bag is an Artist Development Initiative of Dublin Fringe Festival, Fishamble: The New Play Company and Irish Theatre Institute to resource theatre makers and actors
IRISH TIMES ONLINE 06 September 2017
Finding the fun in the fog of Alzheimer’s
Experiences with her father inspired actor Rose Henderson to write a play about Alzheimer’s. Her former Fair City colleague, Pat Nolan, was a co-writer and also stars
The best thing about my dad having Alzheimer’s disease was that he couldn’t remember he had cancer.
An engineer who could always fix anything, my dad, Jack Henderson, had started to have a few forgetful moments. I remember him attempting to fix the rearview mirror in the roof of my car and being unable to figure out which direction to turn the screwdriver that was by then upside down.
It was another three years before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and, 10 years later, he developed pancreatic cancer. My mum, Edith, was able to care for him at home until five weeks before he died, in April 2016, in St Michael’s Hospital in Dún Laoghaire.
My mum and dad were one of those couples who still held hands walking down the street. Married 62 years, they had their disagreements as well as their joys but Alzheimer’s was their biggest test. It seemed to us a cruel blow for an intelligent man who was such a gentleman, but it was these qualities which helped everyone who met him to wonder if he had the disease at all.
He always remembered his jokes, and enjoyed them, chuckling long after we had moved on to another topic. The choice was to laugh rather than cry in the face of disaster.
I hope that telling my parents’ story through a new play for the Dublin Fringe Festival, showing their daily reality and demonstrating their courage, will help to remove the stigma and to humanise the disease.
Moments of joy
People with Alzheimer’s are not zombies. In later stages they can withdraw, but there is often a key to ignite their focus and help them find moments of joy. My dad was never a singer, but at a birthday party his friend handed him the words of a song and he sang a solo with tuneful panache, surprising us all.
Take Off Your Cornflakes is my testament to him. Although, my former Fair City colleague, Pat Nolan, and I have created characters and a new story in this Show in a Bag production, there’s a lot of my dad in there. We hope that anyone who has been touched by this disease (which affects one in four families in Ireland) will recognise the journey of these characters, laugh at shared dilemmas and maybe learn a few ways to find relief.
Trish in the play has to make a choice – to survive or succumb to the pressure. She makes this choice armed only with humour, music and love. I believe humour is the only way to survive if this condition visits you.
We have been laughing a lot in rehearsals, learning to dance with Diane Richardson, trying to talk while dancing (we may abandon that), and Liam Halligan, who directs, nudges us gently to explore new ways of moving and staying true to the story which covers a period of 35 years.
I was rarely with my dad 24 hours a day, and was mostly able to enjoy my time with him. For my mum it was much harder, watching her best buddy steadily disconnect from their well-rehearsed repartee. It’s a lonely place, making decisions for both of them, and carers are largely unsupported by the health services (they managed to get an hour and a half of home help).
Kindness of neighbours
Without the kindness of local people, I don’t know how long mum could have kept him at home. The staff of Solo Café in Killiney would keep an eye on him while she did their grocery shopping, refusing to accept his repeated offers of money, and plying him with another coffee if she had not come back. The council even let him off a parking fine once, when he spent three hours searching for his car. How often does that happen!
Neighbours dropped everything when I was onstage in the Tivoli and brought mum to the hospital when he was ill. Their car mechanic, in PK Motors Blackrock, shut up shop, put on a suit, and came to dad’s funeral. Please know these kindnesses make a world of difference to a carer.
It was the little things that broke my mum’s heart, like having to buy her own Christmas present from him. Now, since his death, she finds herself surrounded by lovely friends and family – but alone.
To get this story on stage, Pat Nolan and I have had huge support and encouragement from Fishamble, the Irish Theatre Institute and Fringe Fest who run the Show in a Bag initiative to encourage actors to write and produce a new piece of theatre.
I miss my lovely dad. The writing of this play has been cathartic and enlightening, and I hope when people come, they will laugh, they may cry, but they will find more than just a story of Alzheimer’s, they will find a tender story of the true meaning of love.
The Arts Review – Chris O’Rourke
The Year that was 2017
While many shows focused on size or scale, some of the most memorable productions resulted from solo or duet performances. Take Off Your Cornflakes by Rose Henderson and Pat Nolan, as part of Fishamble’s Show in a Bag, was deeply moving.
Emer O’Kelly – Sunday Independent, Sept 17, 2017
The Fringe: from Rasputin to Alzheimer’s
Take Off Your Cornflakes by Rose Henderson and Pat Nolan, also part of the Show in a Bag initiative at the Fringe Festival, has it all: the initial joking references to losing one’s marbles, the increasing irritation at seeming thoughtlessness, the terror at finding the world alien, the anguish of the dark cloud of irrational suspicion of nameless betrayals, all culminating in a once passionately and deeply loved companion becoming merely a mindless cloud, and for the one who has retreated, what can only be hoped is a painless nirvana of loss.
The two authors play Trish and her taxi-driver husband Tommy, to perfection, directed by Liam Halligan with music by Denis Clohessy.
Fiona Charleton – Sunday Times, September 24, 2017
Good marriages rarely feature in theatre and when they do, tragedy usually lurks just a scene away. In this Show in a Bag production, written and performed by Rose Henderson and Pat Nolan, Trish and Tommy are married 25 years when his Alzheimer’s flips them from living to coping. Such topics require sensitive handling and director Liam Halligan steers a steady path. Tommy’s symptoms start small, such as forgetting the odd word. They laugh it off, since he’s only 54. As the ending is sadly inevitable, the story arc is more emotional than narrative. Henderson and Nolan have such natural chemistry that, like Trish, we are smiling through tears for much of the show.
An acutely observed piece inspired by Henderson’s family experience, this has an authentic dignity which affirms that love and good humour can coexist with heartbreak.
The Arts Review ****
Chris O’Rourke – September 18, 2017
“Take Off Your Cornflakes” by Pat Nolan and Rose Henderson, should come with a warning. At the very least it should stipulate ‘bring your own supply of tissues.’ Between tears when you want to laugh, and laughing when you want to cry, “Take Off Your Cornflakes” can be something of an emotional rollercoaster. This is a story of two people. Flawed, overwhelmed, and in love in sickness and in health, “Take Off Your Cornflakes” follows the experiences of Trish and Tommy, good people in a bad place, as Alzheimer’s takes hold in what is one of the most sensitive, heartfelt, and uplifting shows of the festival.
Reminiscent of the 2001 movie “Iris,” staring Judi Dench, Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent, “Take Off Your Cornflakes” follows something of the same format and structure, dropping linear narrative and weaving past and present like a rich, luscious layer cake. Busman, and later taxi driver, Tommy, the man with the ready joke always to hand, has been getting forgetful lately. Trish reckons it’s the stress that’s got him into this state. As time passes and Tommy’s condition deteriorates, Trish has to adapt as her relationship shifts from wife to minder, lover to carer. Helpless as her partner becomes her patient, requiring her to have the patience of Job, Trish must face the transformation alone. With family away in San Francisco and Manchester, a son and daughter of the diaspora, Trish is left with phone calls, letters, and Skype calls for moral support. In the end it’s left to Trish to learn to agree, to divert, to distract, to reassure, and reminisce, over and over and over when Tommy needs it. Yet when the brain breaks down, love speaks up. Sometimes in every thing you do, other times in a brief moment of clarity.
Director Liam Halligan does a neat job with a script whose ordinariness conceals some intense depths below. Keeping pace and emotion balanced right on the line, Halligan ensures “Take Off Your Cornflakes” may tipple in places, but it never fully topples into becoming a sentimental tearjerker. Video imagery by Kieran McBride, lighting by Colm Maher and music by Denis Clohesy reinforce Halligan’s sense of the heartbreaking ordinariness of the experience. Pat Nolan is outstanding as the fun, life-loving Tommy, always telling a ridiculous joke, loving his wife and family more than anything, trying to hang on their memory by crosswords or memory games as his mind, and he, disappear. Indeed, Nolan just keeps getting better and better as Tommy gets worse, delivering a beautifully understated, heart wrenching performance.RoseHenderson as Trish, a woman who never complains, hiding her pain, and her needs, behind a forced smile is wonderfully compelling throughout. Clinging to Tommy in every moment, ready to kill him in the next, Henderson’s Trish is deeply moving as the wife who wants her husband back. For an hour. A day. A moment. Throughout, there’s a charm and ease, and an irresistible chemistry between Nolan and Henderson, that is utterly enchanting.
Hats off to A Show in a Bag, brainchild of Fishamble: The New Play Company, Irish Theatre Institute and Dublin Fringe Festival. When new writing all too often means young new writing, supporting a new work like “Take Off Your Cornflakes” as part of the four A Show in a Bag productions in the festival, helps challenge the ageism many feel dominates Irish theatre, especially when it comes to new writing. Hats off, too, to Pat Nolan and Rose Henderson for crafting a work of such sensitivity and relevance, giving voice and immediacy to the experience of those afflicted by Alzheimer’s. When all too often works by older writers are nostalgically looking back, Nolan and Henderson are firmly in the here and now, looking forward.
When it hits, Alzheimer’s is a puzzle that can’t be solved, only lived with, and it takes all those around it down in one shape or form. “Take Off Your Cornflakes” refuses to stay down and reclaims something back from that battle. Refusing to go quietly into that dark night, “Take Off Your Cornflakes” is a heartbreaking joy, full of love, laughter, and the living of every moment. And of jokes so bad you just can’t help laughing. So don’t miss “Take Off Your Cornflakes.” Remember to take your loved one with you, no matter what your age, and don’t forget to ask them to dance.
Michael Moffatt – Irish Mail on Sunday
SHOW OF THE WEEK ****
Tale of dementia gets a heartfelt touch
This latest play on the subject is seen very much from the point of view of Trish, watching her husband Tommy slowly losing his memory as she tries to cope with her own problems while trying to keep a watchful eye on his.
By themselves, those escalating episodes would make for a pretty routine production, but the play, written by the two performers, skilfully keeps the loving relationship central to everything, and the script is enlivened by Tommy’s ability to retain elements of his sense of humour based on word-play and his interest in crosswords; screen projection illustrates forgotten times and places. The ability to remember names and places is vital to taxi driver Tommy.
Rose Henderson as Trish and Pat Nolan as Tommy give very moving performances as a couple clinging to love and affection despite the impossible situation.
Kevin Worrall – Meg.ie – Sept 13, 2017
Take Off Your Cornflakes takes on a complex subject matter. A complicated topic rarely tackled in theatre. Directed by Liam Halligan, this Fishamble production offers an honest and heartfelt portrayal of living with Alzheimer’s.
The couple’s chemistry is beautiful. Portraying a typical Irish couple who have shared a million laughs and a million heartbreaks. Not only does it lend a voice to those suffering with dementia, but it gives a platform for those who have to watch a loved one go through it.
All in all, the message behind the project is very simple. To appreciate one’s past, but to more importantly, live in the present.
Pavilion DunLaoghaire Wed 24 April, booking 01-2312929, email@example.com
Marketplace Theatre Armagh Thursday 2 May, booking 028 3752 1821
The Easi-Slim diet clinic in Clones town hall has just signed up a new member – upwardly mobile Pam McGowan (Isobel Mahon) has cruised into town in her soft top sports car. Pam has reached her target weight and has only signed up to maintain, and brag about the four stone she’s lost.
Breda (Rose Henderson) has been attending Easi-Slim meetings for quite some time but just can’t manage to reduce her waistline – until Pam comes along and whips her into shape.
Breda becomes a disciple of the high-priestess of low-carbs and is bowled over by just how fabulous Pam really is. The jet-style lifestyle, perfect family and of course, low-calorie intake all point towards the fact that Pam has a life every woman strives for. In fact, the only part of Pam that weighs too much is her over-bloated ego.
Breda’s gushing admiration for her new slimming buddy only serves to make Pam all the more condescending and insufferable. However, when Pam’s mask begins to slip, Breda is reminded that things aren’t always what they appear to be.
Weighing-in is a fast-paced comedy about life, love and dieting and how we all need to adjust the scales to find the right balance.
Reviewer: Rachel Rafferty – The Public Reviews
Probably one of the most appealing features of Ger Gallagher’s hilarious comedy, Weighing In is that at its heart is an all too familiar story that centers on two major aspects of women’s lives – identity and the body. Uproariously satirizing society’s contemporary obsession with the body beautiful, this two-hander is set in a small town in rural Ireland. The plot revolves around the svelte and hugely driven, blow in, Pam McGowan (Isobel Mahon) and the more amply proportioned, local Breda Lynch (Rose Henderson). Both are members of the nearby Easi-Slim clinic, but the difference is Pam having already lost a whole four stone has the prestige of being a life-long member while Breda is struggling. The two women bond, as the super-fit, Pam takes on Breda as her protégé in the battle of the bulge. Steered along by Pam’s leadership, a mixture of pep talks, pop psychology and power walks, Breda eventually begins to see results. However, as their friendship develops, an interesting parallel in the relationship emerges, for just as Breda drops the weight, so also does Pam drop her carefully, controlled veneer
The action takes place on the housewives’ power walks and Gallagher’s sharply funny dialogue is evident throughout. Pam and Breda lament for example, the unfortunate Dolores, who though a long-term attendee of the clinic actually got so fat she needs help to get up on the scales. Fitzgerald’s clean direction is obvious in this energetic, fast paced performance.
The actors also have a great rapport – Mahon’s Pam is a very heightened performance, a parody of a manic control-freak becoming almost cartoonish at times. Yet, she instills just enough humanity into the role to save it from veering over into caricature. This is tempered by Henderson’s very grounded Breda, down to earth, mammyish, plumb and pleasant.
At interludes, the offstage, voice of the Class Leader, in the form of Rosaleen Linehan’s voiceover adds to the fun. She dispenses tips, and advice, much of couched in those tired clichés that are the mainstay of most slimming clubs. Such hackneyed slogans as: ‘Fridge pickers wear bigger knickers.’
The play works on a deeper level also, positing the idea that obsessive dieting is just a fetish hiding a deeper need. The question is: what brings happiness? Pam is wealthy and gorgeous, but lonely, while the frumpy Breda’s home life is fulfilling and happy!
Reviewer: Frank L. No More Workhorse
We are constantly being told that obesity is a killer disease and we all need to eat less, to eat more wisely and to exercise. The first week in January after the excesses of the festive season is an entirely appropriate time to return to this less than amusing topic. Maybe an upstairs theatre in Dublin’s most iconic café, Bewleys in Grafton Street, is not the ideal venue in which to encourage eating less but that no way inhibits Breda (Rose Henderson) nor Pam (Isobel Mahon). Pam is new in town but is a long time successful member of Easi-slim (think target weight achieved, 4 stone lost, power walking guru, life time free membership); Breda shall we say is less successful and the problems of being a good wife and mother to her two sons have diverted her from success at Easi-slim. Pam brooks no arguments as she decides to take Breda in hand. They become bosom pals as they keep unwanted calories and needed exercise firmly in their sights.
Henderson and Mahon complement each splendidly in a two hander which takes a fair old swipe at the slimming industry. At the regular weigh-ins which take place weekly, the voice (off stage) of the Easi-slim guru (Rosaleen Linehan) gives advice, makes comments on the weekly weight losses, if any, and throws in for good measure some home truths as “encouragement” for those fighting the flab.
The inflections in her voice and the variety of its tones make a great foil for Breda and Pam to drive forward comically with their own personal battles which are not just about weight.
Losing weight is no laughing matter but adding humour to the ingredients must help the task to be a little bit easier. Weighing In has the right mixture of the difficulties and the obsessiveness which are likely to be encountered in any diet leavened by the comic script of Ger Gallagher, which is delivered with considerable skill by Rose Henderson and Isobel Mahon, that there is more than a good chance that smiles will dance merrily along the lips. In fact a large cream bun in Bewleys might be just what is needed to celebrate the inner glow that this production radiates!
Reviewer: Emer O’Kelly Sunday Independent
The lovely Emer O’Kelly hated Weighing In but I give you the grudging compliments she couldn’t ignore:
Rose Henderson’s endearing Breda is directed with her usual professionalism by Caroline FitzGerald, The audience at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre in Grafton Street at luncthime, 95% of them women, adored it. It is a relaxed way of spending a lunchtime hour.
24 Hour Plays at the Abbey Theatre, Sun 28 Jan in aid of Dublin Youth Theatre.
Six short plays written, rehearsed and presented in just 24 hours in aid of Dublin Youth Theatre.
The 24 Hour Plays: Dublin in aid of Dublin Youth Theatre kicks off at the Meet and Greet. The writers and directors are paired up and briefed. Then the company assembles and each actor presents a prop, a costume, a special skill and something they have always wanted to do on stage but never have. (The writers and directors also add a prop and costume to the mix). All of this acts as inspiration for the writers (and maybe an indication to the directors of how far they can push their cast!!) It is a wonderful couple of hours packed with creative energy. Observing all of this are the technical departments: lighting, sound, stage management, costumes, and the assistant directors and production assistants, taking notes. It’s amazing to see what inspires the writers! All photos by Aoife Herrity, photographer.
My prop was a picture of myself age 6, dressed as an angel. My costume piece was an orange jacket. My skill was Mime (hoping to avoid a lengthy line learn) and my wish was to do a really good prat fall.
The actors went home and the writers set to work writing feverishly till 6am when scripts had to be printed. We met again in the Abbey at 8.15am and the cast and directors were announced, and we set off to our rehearsal room in the Lab F oley Street, scripts in hand. Mark Doherty, Susan Bracken, Pat McGrath and myself were ably directed by Susan Baxter, and our play was written by Orla McGovern. It turned out to be an extremely involved Film Noir detective story complete with detective, Russian tap-dancer, Maire the Mime, Ronnie Rooney the Ringmaster, Pete the Pecs muscle man, and a closing cast dance finale!!
We spent a feverish few hours figuring who murdered who, and who was secretly in love with the other, before the production crew landed into the room. We had half an hour with Bryan Burrows who advised us on face slaps and sudden death falls. We stopped for lunch and script learning. We had 20 minutes on the Abbey stage for a technical rehearsal. Then we retreated back to Foley Street to re-learn the lines (and yes I had plenty despite being Maire the Mime!) Run throughs then to try and hang the play together, and it was actually becoming more clear to our befuddled brains. The dance finale was pure relief and fun. At 6pm, we hauled ourselves back to the Abbey for a company photo shoot and then it was find a dressing room, put on a clean tee shirt, bit of slap, and nose in the script until we heard the first play being introduced. We were on third, so thankfully our ordeal would be over before the interval. A brief hug and on we marched, taking up our opening positions. Mark had offered clarinet playing as his skill and our opening image was wonderful with Susan donning her detective hat to the strains of the clarinet. All was going well till Mark gave a lash of his Ringmaster’s whip – crack the sound effect followed 5 seconds later. He tried again, and crack the same sound delay got a roar of approval from the audience. Then I announced that “a gun was found near the body.” Immediately I knew I had to correct it. “No. A hammer was found near the body.” Tarn. The audience again whooped encouragement! We made it unscathed to the dance number and the audience applauded their way through till we peeled our way into the wings.
It’s not for the faint-hearted, but it was a pleasure to be on the Abbey stage again, and a pleasure to see a full house and know that Dublin Youth Theatre will have funding for another year.
Publicity Profile on Twitter/Facebook to promote the event:
Rose has had her hand up to be an actor since age 2, and they’re finally letting her have a go. She worked in Children’s TV with Pajo’s Junkbox, Nighthawks, Father Ted, Fair City, and has written two plays Ruby Tuesday and Take Off Your Cornflakes with Pat Nolan. She is currently touring Boom by Isobel Mahon and Weighing In by Ger Gallagher.
Have you participated in The 24 Hour Plays in aid of Dublin Youth Theatre before? If yes what is your fondest/ most nightmare causing memories? If no what are you looking forward to/ terrified of?
No. It’s a bit like buying a ticket for the roller coaster and looking at all the loops from the ground. “Yes. This is going to be fun,” I say firmly, not convincing myself at all.
As a teenager what was your greatest interest?
Drama, singing and skipping (yeah, All Ireland Champ)
If you could work on any film or play with anyone living or dead what production and who would it be? Why?
I’d love to have worked with Lucille Ball, a sassy slapstick comic with impeccable timing who was also the first woman to head a major Hollywood studio. I want to be in that conveyor belt chocolate scene!
If you could time travel would you go forward or back and why?
Forward for sure. This is why I support Youth Theatre. I’m excited to see what’s ahead, what barriers come crashing down, what inventions are set to change our lives, and whether we ever get to figure out that love is the answer.
Rose was guest speaker at the International Women’s Club, Talbot Hotel Tuesday 16 January, 2018.
This is an extraordinary gathering of women who come from all walks of life and over 26 countries. They are women who happen to be living in Dublin for anything from 6 months to 6 years. Often they are the ones who support their husband’s career, and during a posting here, they find schools for their children, and facilitate their smooth acceptance into a new culture. Meanwhile, as women do worldwide, they support each other, sharing tips for living in this crazy town, interpreting road-signs, explaining the subtleties of our culture as well as helping each other feel at home in whatever way they can. As well as language classes, fitness classes, yoga, they invite a speaker to the Talbot Hotel once a month, and in January they decided they needed some cheering up, and plummed for a comedian/actress to do just that. Given the diversity of the audience, I wasn’t sure was this going to be my quietest audience yet, but I need not have feared. Over 150 women were warm and interested and gave me their full attention. I did some comedy sketches, talked about creating a career after children, invited them to my upcoming shows, and got them up singing in four-part harmony!!
Selma Mae (Isobel Mahon) is riding the boom, or so it appears to friends and family. She has a perfect husband, perfect kids, a perfect home.
But, when her social-climbing Mother, Carmel (Maria McDermottroe), ‘helpfully’ organises a bash to celebrate her new state-of-the-art extension, Selma begins to wonder who’s life she’s living after all. As the odd assortment of guests; glamorous neighbour Chloe (Claudia Carroll), career-girl sister Maeve (Aisling O’Neill), and the eccentric Bernie (Rose Henderson), begin to assemble, it becomes obvious that Carmel’s dream of an elegant ‘do’ is fast descending into chaos.
The night unfolds, old secrets are shared and facades begin to crack. The Boomtime girls are forced to recognise that behind the gloss, true friendship proves the only solid foundation.
This play has just finished a run in the Gaiety Theatre Dublin and is currently playing at the New York City Center Stage II under the title Party Face directed by Amanda Bearse and starring Hayley Mills – tickets NYCityCenter.org until 8 April 2018.
March 30, 2018
by Chris O’Rourke – The Arts Review
Secrets and Lies
Secrets run rampant in Isobel Mahon’s comedy “Boom?” where five women discover that keeping things hidden is a lot harder than you think. With some incredible comic moments, wonderfully observed humour, and some stellar performances, “Boom?” often delivers big on the belly laughs.
Set over the course of a single evening, “Boom?” sees tales of disappearing husbands, psychiatric hospitals, old affairs, and new friendships gathering for a party in Selma Mae’s newly constructed extension. Mum Carmel, a wannabe Yummy Mummy at sixty three, prances about in her leopard print leggings finding fault with everything and everyone, especially her two daughters. Only Chloe, Selma Mae’s tasteful neighbor from two doors down, is above reproach. As ephemeral as she is pretentious, Chloe from Cork is the height of sophistication in Carrickmines in 2006. Mother of a suburban terrorist, her art appreciation might not be all it could be, but Chloe knows everything about anything, from the proper way to judge wine, the dangers of allergens, to guided meditations to find your inner door. Selma Mae’s wine swilling, no nonsense sister, Maeve, thinks Chloe is for the birds. But that privilege might have to go to Selma Mae’s newest acquaintance, Bernie, an MDOC (manic depressive obsessive compulsive) with a penchant for cling film. As the night progresses, and alcohol flows, pipes are not the only things to burst, as the lies that disguise give way to secrets untold and decisions will have to be made about what happens next.
Mahon’s script is laced with observational humour of such finesse that you simply want to bask in it. “Boom?” is at its most engaging best when it lets its five women just be free to talk wine, talk spiteful, or to talk behind one anothers back. Isobel Mahon as Selma Mae, a woman with some thinking to do, forms the gravitational centre around which everything revolves. As well as playing straight woman to a delightful Maria McDermottroe as her eternally judgmental, socially ambitious mother, Carmel. Claudia Carroll as the paragon of pretension, Chloe, and Aisling O’Neill as the under used, straight talking Maeve, are pure comedy gold. Carroll sets them up and O’Neill knocks them down every time with the timing and precision of seasoned comedy veterans. A scene stealing Rose Henderson as Bernie, Blowly, Bunty, or any other B name you can probably think off, is simply fantastic as a kind of Lear’s fool, as wise in her madness as the others are mad in their apparent wisdom.
There’s a reason why “Boom?”, entitled “Party Face” in the US, has proven to be hugely popular in New York. And it’s not just because it stars Hayley Mills. It’s because Mahon’s comedic script provides some smart commentary on boom, and post boom, Ireland. On mothers and daughters, and the fads, failings and friendships that exist between five wonderfully engaging women. And of the pressures, self inflicted and otherwise, they struggle with. This production provides generous amounts of laughter, some exquisite comic performances, and an enjoyable evening out with the girls.
The Dolmen Theatre, Cabinteely, Preview 6 Feb, Opening Tue 7 Feb – 18 Feb
Tickets €15 Booking 087-1018202
In her gilded cage in the leafy suburbs of Dublin, Mrs. T has managed to hold onto her middle class lifestyle but at what cost? Filling her life with writers’ groups, yoga holidays, school reunions and obsessive cleaning is not quite enough. Her marriage is a sham, and her daughter wants to get away as far and fast as possible. She has to pick up the pieces or succumb to depression.
Her husband may control her spending, but she does have a cleaning lady, Ruby, who calls every Tuesday to clean the house and blow away the cobwebs of Mrs. T’s life with sarcasm, wit and common sense.
This keenly observed comedy brings together two women who come to depend on each other for laughter and sanity, while their home life disintegrates around them.
As their stories unfold we see how banter and laughter help them to deal with the betrayals of children, the cold indifference of a failed marriage and the domestic catastrophes behind the double-glazing, spit and polish.
Emer O’Kelly, Sunday Independent 30 April 2017
IF YOU WANT CHARM, YOU’LL GET IT IN SPADES FROM RUBY TUESDAY …
THERE IS A CONSIDERABLE AUDIENCE FOR THIS MATERIAL AND HENDERSON HAS HIT IT SUCCESSFULLY…
THE CHARM TRUMPS ALL.
No More Workhorse – Review by P McGovern
Anyone expecting from the title that there’s a Rolling Stones angle will have to settle for Peter Skellern and a bit of ragtime piano. The world presented in this revival of Rose Henderson’s 2008 play is not rebellious or even vaguely Rock ‘n Roll. It is the staid, mundane and uneventful world of two women – at least it appears so, on the surface. Like most lives, however, when you glimpse beyond the surface there are all kinds of hidden personal dramas, involving relationship difficulties, the onset of ageing, and the grief of bereavement. Henderson has reworked the piece significantly from the original version, developing the relationship between two women, Mrs. T and Ruby, the woman who cleans for her. Yes, on Tuesdays.
The characters are well delineated: middle-class Mrs. T, all smiley, open, bubbly charm, warm and empathic; Ruby a no-nonsense working class woman, good-natured but clear-eyed, with a very realistic sense of the world around her and her own place in it. As the two settle into their weekly routine of laundering, dusting and cleaning, it seems as if we are in for a straightforward, slice-of-domestic-life and girl-talk piece. However, all is not as bland and cosy as it first appears. Both women have encountered serious problems in their family lives and, in their respective crises, each has thrown the other “a lifeline”, reinforcing the bond of friendship beyond the boundaries of employer/employee. The seriousness of the play is leavened with a lot of fun and the plot is enlivened with time lapses into girlhood and recapturing a few serious moments too. Colm Maher’s lighting design readily signals the shifts in time, place and character and, like Deirdre Molloy’s sympathetic direction, it does so without fuss.
Both Rose Henderson as Mrs T and Helen Norton as Ruby are excellent. Henderson’s wreathed, beaming smiles and fluttering movements and her eagerness to please at her schoolgirls’ reunion somehow belie an underlying anxiety to fit in and a need for affirmation. Norton’s Rose doubles as Mrs. T’s teenage sister of 30 years ago, effortlessly changing from inner city working class to solid Dublin middle-class, giggly school girl on holiday and later to the neighbour who calls in a misguided but well-intentioned effort to be helpful. When the darker side of Ruby’s life experience surfaces, it is deeply affecting, all the more so for the restraint in the acting and direction.
An odd weakness in the production is the stage set, not explained by the restricted space. Two cream-coloured, leatherette dining chairs of an “apartment fit-out” type and an odd-looking table draped with a cloth that reaches the floor. A €5-type of printed image of a cow as the only picture on the walls. The whole impression sits uneasily with the image of a couple that goes on golfing trips to South Africa. However, the strength of the performances means that such minor issues don’t really take from an enjoyable and worthwhile lunchtime performance which continues at Powerscourt Theatre, South William St, daily at 1 pm until May 6th
John McKeown Irish Daily Mail 11 April 2008
Cleaning Lady makes a Fine Agony Aunt…
Verdict: Spunky comic two-hander ****
Writer Rose Henderson has come up with something fresh and often very funny. There’s the class reunion where Mrs. T assures her friends that she won’t say a word about her wonderful children, but can chatter about nothing else. That’s followed by a demonstration of Mrs. T’s ability to slip into her ‘yogic state’ at will. The personal griefs she unburdens on Ruby are treated more seriously, but there’s an irrepressible quality to Mrs. T’s laments, lit by unsettling flashes of honesty. Henderson’s first play, deftly directed by Deirdre Molloy, is a lively, irreverent piece of writing.
Lucy White Metro 22 April 2008
Initially threatened by loud drumming from Grafton Street, Ruby Tuesday found its own rhythm, weaving real-time conversations between the two women with seamless flashbacks – a pile of laundry was fashioned very convincingly into a bawling babe in arms when new-mother Mrs. T recalled a touching phone call with her own mum. Rose Henderson wrote and stars, playing Mrs. T down to a, well, tea. Inspired by women who work in the home, Henderson has mingled her own personal experiences with poetic license for a heart-warming tale of friendship in unlikely places. Helen Norton meanwhile plays the pragmatic Ruby without ever resorting to working-class caricature. Mrs. T might be just another middle-aged wife/mother/daughter trying to reclaim her identity after the kids have flown the nest but her plight is touchingly handled. Issues of dieting, absent husbands, miscarriage, moody children and self-help books may point towards a very specific demographic, but the performances ensure Ruby Tuesday is a little gem anyone can enjoy.
Gerry Colgan Irish Times 4 April 2008
Mrs. T is an upper crust suburban housewife whose life has been difficult, leaving her vulnerable to introspection and neuroses. Ruby is the cleaning lady who adds dollops of common sense and realism to her routine chores. Rose Henderson’s play juxtaposes these two characters to some effect. Their short soliloquies and exchanges provide pleasant entertainment for the audience. The author has much to offer. There are neat alter ego tricks to exploit the possibilities of theatre as when both characters become Mrs. T, fending off false friendship in contrasting ways. The actors – the author and the ebullient Helen Norton – hit the right notes to generate the laughter of recognition.
Sara Keating Sunday BusinessPost 27 April 2008 ***
Henderson plays the self-obsessed Mrs. T, whose secret weaknesses for cream buns and old-fashioned crooners make her more of a fallible heroine than a martyr. Norton gives a delightfully physical performance as the dogged cleaning lady, Ruby. The more difficult scenes of Henderson’s play are comprehensively executed, such as the scene where Norton becomes a stand-in for Mrs. T’s conscience, embodying Mrs. T’s inner voice to comic effect. Some of the acerbic social observation in the play is penetrating and acute, such as the peculiarly female habit of celebrating other people’s problems while pretending to sympathise. A packed house revelled in Henderson’s biting take on domesticity.