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Slippery When Wet review: Sparky solo show brims with queasy humour and scathing self-awareness

Theatre: Devlin cleverly creates workplace mundanity and half-promise of a good time

Slippery When Wet

Lyric Theatre, Belfast

In these straitened times, life is tough for freelance theatre artists, whose contribution to the health and wellbeing of society frequently goes unsung and undervalued. Even in the best of times, that wasteland between a rock and a hard place forever looms, with many ambitious young creatives forced to forsake hard-won independence for an ignominious return to the financial security of the parental home and a minimum-wage job.

Under Emma Copland’s light-touch direction, the Buncrana-born actor and writer Leanne Devlin tells it like it is, in this sparky, self-penned solo show brimming with queasy humour and scathing self-awareness. The wunderkind of her drama-school year and the only graduate to go straight into a big stage role, Elle suddenly finds herself on the scrapheap. Countless auditions end in rejection, her agent stops ringing and her landlord is threatening eviction. From living the dream in the big city, she is now consigned to cleaning toilets in a local supermarket. Then Love turns up in the shape of a 5ft 8in, bespectacled trainee manager, unleashing wild imaginings, desperate yearnings and a welter of sexual fantasies.

In a minimal set and propped only by a mop, a bucket, a pop-up safety sign and a pair of Marigolds, Devlin, whose play also featured at this year’s Dublin Fringe Festival, cleverly creates the mundanity of the workplace, the claustrophobia of home and the half-promise of a good time with love. Disguising Elle’s false hopes, disappointments and frustrations behind a bright smile, a determined swagger and a battery of self-deprecating one-liners, this spirited young woman is fully deserving of a big hug when she unexpectedly reaches her dry land.

Slippery When Wet continues at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, until Friday, November 10th

Jane Coyle

Jane Coyle is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture