City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

How Now Mrs Brown Cow, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review

By Alex Eades - Posted on 01 December 2010

Mrs Brown.jpg
Show Details
Brendan O'Caroll (writer, director)
Brendan O'Caroll (Mrs Brown), Dermot O'Neill (Grandad), Rory Cowan (Son)
Running time: 

Having made the somewhat foolish decision to confront Edinburgh winter’s wrath head on, it was with, not so much bright-eyed enthusiasm, but bounding joy that I greeted the oh so familiar doors of our wonderful Edinburgh Playhouse.

Once dusted down and suitably defrosted, it occurred to me that there was an unnatural number of smiley faces dancing, haphazardly, around me.

My initial instinct was that these were faces tormented by frostbite and hollow pockets, but it soon became apparent that, well, these were just happy people.

And I guess they had good reason to be. After all, it’s that kind of year again, isn’t it. Late night shopping. German markets. Endless parties. And daft, daft shows.

And shows don’t get any dafter than How Now Mrs Brown Cow.

Now, daft does not always automatically translate into bad. There are plenty of shows available, all the year around, that are as silly as can be, yet fantastically entertaining. However, regrettably, Mrs Brown is not fantastically entertaining. In fact, it struggles to inspire any ripples of joy at all.

The plot is so incomprehensibly thin that it is simply not worth mentioning. But that is to be expected and is of little consequence here.

What we need instead is to be bombarded with fast and furious comedy. Rib tickling one-liners. Belly jolting scenarios. Larger than life performances.

The latter, it has to be said, is indeed evident. Writer-director-and-star Brendan O’ Caroll is quite wonderful as the lovable Mrs Brown, with a fabulous knack for comedy. To watch her and hear her is a humorous experience. But a show cannot hold up on the strength of individual charisma alone. And with this, Mrs Brown shows that she too cannot help but slip and fall flat on her face this December.

The jokes are poor and predictable, raising only a few laughs periodically. The only roars of laughter came from apparent mistakes or “unplanned” performances. These all seemed very suspect to me and just confirmed my suspicion that this was a piece out of ideas before it had even started. If you don’t spot this old trick, then you will no doubt find it hilarious. Personally, I found it rather cheap and, in time, insulting and aggravating.

It was very disappointing considering all of the good things I have heard about previous encounters with the Irish Grandma. Time, it appears, has taken its toll. Perhaps she can sense the presence of inevitability at her door? Or, perhaps, she should.

Show runs until 4 December.