With the lights dimmed, a faux news report begins playing over the sound system. The report, while giving the audience background information on the devil who wears Primark herself – Aunt Athy – also acts like a disclaimer, warning the audience that Aunt Athy isn’t to everyone’s taste, with some accusing her of setting feminism back fifty years. While this serves to set up the character, it also serves to warn the audience that what they are about to watch won’t be universally enjoyable.
The premise for The Devil Wears Primark is a simple one: an overbearing mother, Athy (Kathleen Ruddy), has summoned her estranged children home on the eve of her receiving an MBE from the Queen for services to showbusiness. Athy tries to use the opportunity to ingratiate herself into her children’s lives.
It feels as though The Devil Wears Primark is trying to live in two separate worlds, one where the humour is shocking and risqué and the other where it appeals to middle-aged women whose idea of hilarity is an episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys. Sadly, it achieves neither, as the humour is generic, uncreative and about as subtle as an angle-grinder to the crotch. Which, coincidently, is something this play features.
The incident in question sees Mina, played by Penni Tovey, take an angle-grinder and straddle it against a metal plate attached to her waist. This is perhaps the most enjoyable sequence of the play; shame that it actually has very little relevance to the storyline and seems only to have been added because Tovey is capable of doing it.
All this being said, most of the audience were laughing loudly and laughing often, so clearly Ruddy has created a play that, while not to everyone’s taste, is very enjoyable to those who share the same sensibilities as her. If you’ve liked her other work or Mrs Brown’s Boys, then you’ll probably love this. Otherwise, you’ll probably hate it.