It's Not All Rain and Potatoes

Anne-Marie Marquess gets lyrical about all things Irish

"First it was the Celts, I was petrified. And then the Christians took the Vikings on, at five-a-side. By the time the Normans came, I was ready for my tea. And we had only reached the ABCs, of Irish history…"

A splendid trip through Irish history in the form of a 70s disco number - part and parcel of It's Not All Rain and Potatoes, a selection of sketches about all things Irish at the Baby Grand in Belfast.

Singing of the various invasions into Ireland, our cast wonder "What will they think, when they arrive? On rain and potatoes, you just cannot stay alive." Yes, rain and potatoes, two things that anyone living in any part of Ireland will be familiar with. As well as the stereotypes, Irish dancers, the alcohol, Irish mothers and fathers, writers, nuns, priests, the gossip, the culture and the craic. Terra Nova productions present a comedy performance that’s refreshing, fast-paced and absolutely entertaining.

The talented trio of Nuala McKeever, Stephen Daly and Foalan Morgan play a range of characters, and there are faces here that most people will recognise. Blessed with wonderful comic ability and versatility, writer and performer McKeever is probably best known as a member of the Hole in the Wall Gang, whilst Daly and Morgan have a varied range of theatre credits to their names. The intimate setting of the Baby Grand is perfect for this kind of show. 

Directed by Andrea Montgomery, It's Not All Rain and Potatoes is hilarious, a real crowd pleaser, covering all things Irish and a lot more in between. The play opens with a male member of the cast dressed in a girl's wig and skirt, Irish dancing across the stage like a rag doll in drag. Another appears in bowler hat and sash, stiff and wound up, a clockwork orangeman. They both do their own thing, pretending that the other doesn’t exist, holding their ground until the scene turns into a face-off. Sound familiar? 

With lyrics by Anthony Toner, McKeever's rendition of 'I Will Survive' is one of many hilarious songs. 'Wheaten Woman' is an unlikely superhero - the sketch begins with humming, Batman-style music with the two men singing and dancing on either side of McKeever. She emerges holding a tray of wheaten bread. "She dominates the kitchen, with incredible ease; Doing fifteen things at once, some of them on her knees". Priceless.

Okay, so we have all seen those tourist advertisements promoting Ireland: attractive people in bars, slow motion, laughing, flashing smiles, white teeth, sparkling eyes, raising glasses to say cheers, someone playing an instrument in the background, the bars alive. Aye, the craic is mighty, come and visit this friendly and vibrant place with beautiful people in warm woolly sweaters dwelling in this mystical land.

One such ad is acted out , going on to reveal the characters that you are more likely to find in an Irish bar. 'So, how much did you sell your house for?' one asks. The Irish bar in reality is a lot different from the one in the ads!

The second half begins with two girl friends drinking wine and chatting about dating and how hard it is to find a decent single man. Having tried the traditional methods, followed by online methods, they eventually resort to flicking through their little book of Irish Saints. St Patrick is pick of the crop, but alas, too busy in the modern day. With phones, filofaxes and three pretty personal assistants with PHDs, he’s too much like hard work.

Following this, the second half loses its way with an exploration of the paranormal and the emergence of Viking Emer failing to match the comic high-water mark. But the majority of sketches in the performance hit home with Grafters Recruitment Agency trying to find new roles for a crying mother and alcoholic father, an Irish writer pitching movie ideas to an American Director (who loses the plot and rewrites the scripts), a 'Gaelculator' telling tourists how to understand the locals, and a nun with a gun berating schoolchildren. These witty explorations expose stereotypes and how others see the Irish.

The play ends with an improvisation in which McKeever invites suggestions from the audience about any Irish things that haven’t been mentioned. So we had leprechauns (obviously), Van Morrison, an accordion, and Dana. An interesting improvisation ensues. The grand finale is a song entitled 'The Joy of Being Irish', complete with dance moves and swaying bodies:

"That’s the joy of being Irish, east, west, north or south; Everybody thinks they know you, when you open up your mouth. There’s a distant Irish relative, for every boy and girl. We fulfil some kind of need, for every country in the world…"

Get back to your roots and leave the rain and potatoes behind for a while. You will most definitely be amused and entertained.