Writers Dan Gordon, Gary Mitchell and Colin Murphy raise a fleg for tasteless topical satire with the Lyric Theatre's end of year review show
We all know our Greek mythology, right? Cerberus was, of course, the fearsome three-headed hound who guarded the way to the kingdom of Hades – or, as revisionist religionists would have it these days, to the 'after-life'.
Forget Turkey! begins with a downstage projection of just such a polycephalytic canine. Writers Gary Mitchell, Dan Gordon and Colin Murphy have subverted/perverted/spoiled (delete according to your level of festive spirit) the classic MGM lion logo to their own fowl ends. Mitchell, Gordon, Murphy – get it?
Of course, what this particularly ripe MGM production lacks in taste, budget and extravagant casting, it makes up for in high camp, lofty ideals and a little slapstick – all the better to beat Northern Ireland's public figures into the misshapen grotesques and incompetents that many people already take them for.
There's a whole heap of post-pubescent fun to be had. So much so, in fact, that even the sorry entendre-and-a-half inhumanely trapped within the title’s parnenthesis can’t spoil proceedings. This humdinger of a festive bird at the Lyric Theatre is stuffed right up to the neck with what used to be known in the entertainment world as 'variety'. And variety is exactly what makes Forget Turkey! work.
At well over two hours long, and glutted with sketches, silly songs, filmed excerpts and the odd spot of didactic 'makes you think, dunnit?' fact splurging, it offers, in best marketing chunter, 'literally something for everyone'.
So, if you're bored by an interminable Bob Dylan pastiche about the post-conflict ironies of 'aar wee praavince', there comes shortly thereafter a painfully funny sketch about the Northern Irish public being 'vuktums' of the Troubles.
The writers lay on an irreverent spread of the happenings, outrages and idiocies that were covered only slightly more seriously in the mainstream media over the past 12 months. 'Kurntafares' is mixed with up with TV ads, sporting achievements and a little light hospital drama, all topped off with the issue of 'flegs', of course – the unavoidable flapping symbolic (im)material at the Northern Irish Yule tide feast.
And there are some great, near-the-knuckle jokes here, all delivered with a puckish wink to the audience. The Sinn Fein sub sub commitee meeting sketch with an inexperienced minister as chair has a delicous sting to it, especially when followed up by an enjoyably creepy ministerial slot, where a selection of Northern Irish 'politicians' make a literal song and dance out of nothing.
Other notable targets are millionaire golfers, Ulster Bank and abortion clinics. Throughout, there is a curious but engagingly old-fashioned Christmas tellie feel to the show, and the excellent, energetic cast of four whirl about the stage in various states of dress, distress and accent, with Michael Condron just about standing out with his usual Swiss Army Ents Corps level of versatility.
His G-Mac, Nick Griffin and amusingly jaundiced hospital patient ('I thought the Paralympics were the Olympics for paramilitaries') are just a few more deliciously horrific characters he can now add to his rather overcrowded menagerie of grotesques.
Through a process of duracell-powered robotic jazz hands, sheer showbiz attrition and not a little sprinkling of seasonal good will, the rough is joyfully ridden along with the smooth in this compendium of colloquial cock-ups, craven councillors and the odd cathartic ‘c’ word.
By the end, the already partisan and rather well heeled audience is roaring at Stephen Nolan as Jabba the Hut and gleefully clapping along to ditties about the tricky nomeclatural minefield of the Derry/Londonderry moniker like they’re all in on the joke – which of course they are, being Northern Irish.
Luckily Forget Turkey! has enough inclusive festive fun to appeal to all shoe-sizes, prejudices and persuasions – and might just be entitled to a crass community grant as a result. It turns out then that this particular version of Cerberus isn't guarding the gateway to the hell mouth – just Helen's Bay.
Forget Turkey! runs in the Lyric Theatre, Belfast until January 13.