By Holli Harms
Mikel Murfi is quite simply astonishing in this extraordinary performance of an ordinary life, a simple, beautiful life, the life of Pat Farnon.
We are active participants in this wonderful telling of small village life in Ireland set in the late 70s and 80s. Our narrator, Pat Farnon, a man who should not be narrator as he is a man without the ability to speak, tells his remarkable story of love with the voice no one can hear but himself and now, luckily, us.
Quiet and studied observations of small everyday moments can make them large. Finding the beauty in holding someone in your arms, and washing them with the meditative warmth of water is magnified when one is simply there and doing them. This essence of being leads to an understanding of how life and death can create a complete existence together.
Mikel Murfi embodies every one of the characters in this town with such clear precision of body and voice we come to immediately see them vividly with only the shrug of a shoulder or shift in stance. Murfi carves his stories out of sparks of fire and caresses of water with such grace of body and words that we were all gobsmacked at this incredible artist’s work. His production, now running at the Irish Arts Center, is a story in three acts (The Man in the Woman’s Shoes, I Hear You and Rejoice, and The Mysterious Case of Kitsey Rainey) that each stand on their own, but are best thoroughly enjoyed together. You are able to watch each act over several nights or there’s the opportunity to be engrossed in his stories all in one day.
It is October 1978 and Pat Farnon is the village mute and cobbler. He takes great care with the shoes his friends and neighbors wear. In The Man In Woman’s Shoes, the first of the trilogy, Pat walks into town wearing the mended shoes of Kitsy Rainey, to stretch them out for Kitsy so she will be comfortable as she coaches (yelling and running up and down the sidelines like a banshee on steroids) the local football team. On his walk, he will meet up with friends and acquaintances of the town, all characters in their own right. Pat has a crush on Kitsy, as have most of the town’s bachelors, and some of the married men. But she is a force to be reckoned with and no one seems up to the task.
I Hear You and Rejoice – the second of the trilogy is set seven years later, April 1985. We catch up with Pat and what has been happening in his town, with his people, and of course with Kitsy Rainey. With nothing but a chair, in his bare feet, Murfi, with his trademark of listening to the silence and hearing the stories hidden in it, takes on yet another journey. This one is a passage into loss. But here the loss is met with surprises and a little more than a little magic.
The final piece in the evening, The Mysterious Case of Kitsey Rainey, is set in May 1987. Here Pat discovers an insight into himself that he did not know. He finds for himself the truth of life, what makes sense to him, and what the story of a true life lived is. He will find a guide here not in our reality. A guide who will remind him that there is no time for fear in life. Here he will ask himself existential questions that we have all asked in the quiet moments when all falls away and we are only then capable of asking. What of God? What of life? What of friendship? He reminds us all that the highlight of life – to know love, is our true essence. It is a deep connection that transcends all humans past and present.
“Murfi’s trilogy of solo works were created by way of commissions from Hawk’s Well Theatre and Sligo County Council Arts Service for the Bealtaine Festival, which empowers older people to connect with the arts.”
Murfi since being commissioned to write the first play of the trilogy went on to write the final two pieces. He said about this experience, “I’ve spent ten years with Pat Farnon. It’s the most beautiful experience as an actor because the character becomes like family: it does my heart good to be with him. He’s the most lovely man.” And we must thank, deeply thank, Murfi for discovering Pat Farnon and sharing Pat and his neighbors and mates with the rest of us.
Reminding us of the simple, everyday beauty and toils of life we all share is our mutual poetry.
Irish Arts Center presents the full trilogy of Mikel Murfi’s virtuosic solo works set in a tight-knit rural Irish community—including the North American premiere of the final part, The Mysterious Case of Kitsy Rainey, and the return of the acclaimed The Man in the Woman’s Shoes (IAC, 2015) and I Hear You and Rejoice (IAC, 2018)