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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Brighton 2012 arrow Murphy's Legacy by Eddie Alford
Murphy's Legacy by Eddie Alford
Published on Wednesday, 16 May 2012

2 stars

The Eagle Bar
11-13, 15-19 May, 8:30pm-10:15pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 2-for-1 tickets for Friends of the Fringe members.

Sometimes, perhaps, you just have to be Irish.  Playwright Eddie Alford scored a Fringe hit with The M Boat last year, successfully evoking a 1950’s Guinness barge in the incongruous setting of a Brighton pub.  Unfortunately, the same trick hasn’t worked with Murphy’s Legacy; its satire of rural society in the early 1990’s simply isn’t accessible enough for a general Brighton audience, for all that the Irish diaspora among the crowd seemed to be enjoying the jokes.

Set in the early 90’s, when the Celtic Tiger was beginning to roar, the script is heavy with stinging references to politicians and their purportedly thieving ways.  The ruling class is represented by the amusingly-titled Minister for Darts (The Arts, geddit?) – who’s also the local member of the Dáil, equivalent to an MP over here.  A few of the themes, touching on corruption and abuse of power, are universal; but to appreciate the others, I think you really had to be there.  I intellectually understand in-jokes on topics like Bertie Ahern’s non-existent bank account, but I suspect they can only be genuinely funny if you’ve lived on the far side of the water.

The humour’s more accessible, though, when it turns its sights on the Church.  The comparison with Father Ted is unavoidable, and at its best the script was reminiscent of scenes from Craggy Island; I enjoyed a comedy-of-errors in the confessional, where the priest became embroiled in an escalating misunderstanding with a lesbian penitent and a domineering bishop.  The characters could use a little more subtlety, however, and the targets for the humour were a little predictable.  Given his obvious deep familiarity with small-town Irish culture, I felt Alford could have found something more novel to say.

Still, there’s plenty of craic around the enjoyably, deliberately chaotic opening, and the occasional outbursts of song fitted nicely into the piece – indeed I wished they’d offered a few more, in contrast to the static dialogues which made up a lot of the plot.  The cast’s musical talents prove understandably variable, but Alford wisely uses the strongest voices (notably Louise Taylor) for the biggest set-pieces.  There are some well-acted moments to enjoy, as well; Vinny Fennell, who plays two characters, particularly impressed me in his dual role, haughty as the politician but hesitant as the priest.

Ultimately though, Murphy’s Legacy sadly isn’t consistent enough to recommend, and its plot is a little too inscrutable to carry the day.  There are wonderful moments – the pig race is hilarious! – and the vicious political satire will chime with many.  But if you don’t have the right background, you’ll spend too much time lost in the Irish sea.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.