Is That Too Hot?

The success of Patricia Gormley's I'll Tell My Ma? meant that a follow-up wasn't merely expected, but demanded. At least by audiences, and Is That Too Hot? delivers the goods.

Gormley and her muse, the chameleonic Christina Nelson, bring back Chelsea Marie, Granny Eileen and a couple of other characters ranging from charmingly tactless to comfortingly maternal for a part-lively comedy, part-human drama right in keeping with the January and February blues.

This time, Nelson's cascade of colourful characterisations have a strong dramatic and comedic core alongside them – the impressive Roisin Gallagher. She plays Olive, the owner of popular but struggling Belfast hairdresser Buns 'R' Us, who doesn't even know if there will be a future, let alone future plans.

What better way to approach this gloom than with laughs? And we get those in spades, thanks to a series of monologues, dialogues and on-and-off stage misadventures. Unsubtle musical cues – try ABBA's Money, Money, Money and Super Trouper for bluntness – and a multitude of expressions come right at us, director Alan McKee swiftly challenging both actresses to deliver Gormley’s intelligent malapropisms and cringy puns, the kind which can only emerge from the superficiality of everyday life. Both are on point, the pivotal Gallagher matching the fantastic Nelson beat for beat.

Beneath the fun, the show speaks to not only finances but advancing years, and how the eighties generation, let alone those that came before them, have lost themselves in cynicism to counter resentment – which can be lifted by understanding, as Olive may, the true value of a business and how uplifting it is to others. What's core to her livelihood in the play is equally important, and rather informative, to us on the night. (Or on the day, depending when you see it.)

Simon Fallaha

Is That Too Hot? concludes its run at The MAC today before touring to The Market Place, Armagh (February 12), the Island Arts Centre, Lisburn (February 21), the Burnavon Theatre, Cookstown (February 22) and more. For more information visit Joseph Rea Productions on Facebook.