A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!




Bewley's Café Theatre presents


Forty-Seven Roses


An Evening with Peter Sheridan


by Peter Sheridan

Directed by Maggie Byrne


Waterloo East Theatre


3 - 22 May 2011



Peter Sheridan's one man show takes the audience down his own personal memory lane back to late 1950s Dublin to investigate his father's unusually close relationship with a Northern English woman called Doris and how it affected his relationship with his wife Anna, 'Ma' to their six children. When 'Da' finally dies of a heart attack after a lifetime of flitting between the two women, Anna writes to Doris who then arrives on the doorstep with 47 red and white roses, representing the 47 years she has loved Anna's husband, the colours red and white representing his devotion to Manchester United Football Club. Sheridan's Ma offers to take the roses to put them in water, but Doris insists she promised to put them on Peter Senior's grave, marches off to do so and stays in the back bedroom for six days before going back to Blackburn, continuing to visit with the 47 roses on the anniversary of Da's death and on his birthday until Ma finally has enough and on her son Peter's suggestion, takes off to her daughter Ita in Cork when the dreaded visit is due.  Soon after Ma dies, Doris stops making the pilgrimage, perhaps because she feels the visits to the grave are less private with Ma's name on the headstone next to her beloved Peter. Strangely, Sheridan says he never felt his father's presence again as keenly as when Doris embraces him in her grief crying 'Oh, Peter!'

How did this apparently unremarkable man, working in a railway ticket office in Dublin where he first met Doris, manage to keep two women dancing attendance on his every need for his whole life? In many cases like my own parents, drink was the gooseberry that turned Irish marriages sour but most 1950s Irish wives had to put up with some form of hardship from tyrannical husbands, divorce was outlawed in the Irish constitution which also designated a women's place as in the home. Peter Sheridan's account of the Da's enthusiasm for rather extreme DIY and the ramshackle arrangements his long suffering Ma had to put up with are seen through the rose tinted spectacles of nostalgia, he makes no attempt to hide his deep affection for his benignly anarchic family and his father in particular, creating a romantic portrait of a very happy childhood, touched by grief when his youngest brother dies of a brain tumour at the tragically young age of ten.

It's another memoir, though thankfully not a 'misery memoir' in the style of Frank McCourt which inadvertently led to the Irish being dubbed MOPE (the Most Oppressed People Ever). Why should we be interested in this one? The 'luck of the Irish' could be part of the answer, since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 you would think the Irish peed port wine. With the sting of 'The Troubles' taken out of Irish identity, the blarney is going down a storm in the entertainment business. This is generally good news, because we see more of fine actors like Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell and more new plays by writers like Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson . Roddy Doyle's work is closest to what Sheridan has done here, having written a similar memoir about his parents Rory and Ita. As in Roddy Doyle's work, the Dublin vernacular plays a lead role in Sheridan's performance which is given with great poise and dramatic control. Sheridan wrote the screenplay and directed the film Borstal Boy and has a great deal of experience in writing and directing his own plays in the theatre. The set was very simple, centring on an armchair probably very similar to the one his father died in with a few bits of familiar domestic furniture to give the sense of comfort and security his Ma always provided. Sheridan played to a full house and some members of the audience were clearly moved and delighted by the snatches of song and anecdotes both funny and sad that Sheridan regaled us with in this very personal tribute to his father, a man who was obviously very lovable indeed.


Waterloo East Theatre
Brad Street, London SE1 8TG
7:30pm Tues - Sat 4pm Sun Mat (No show Sun May 15th)
Tickets: £15, £12 Concs
Box Office:  0207 928 0060

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