Packie’s Wake at Derry’s Millennium Forum

Twelve years ago, Eddie Kerr’s sensational and hilarious play went from a three week sell out in Derry, a tour of Ireland, to receiving worldwide acclaim after a sell out stint at the Helen Hayes Theatre in New York. 
Last night the funeral cortege arrived once more at the Millennium Forum in Derry. This time I just had to pay my respects. So along myself and Martine went last night, and thank heavens we brought tissues!!
Packie’s Wake tells the side-splitting story of how local hero, Packie Devlin, through an ironic quirk of fate, is allowed to attend his own wake. The poor misfortunate has the opportunity to find out what his family and friends really think of him as he participates in the hysterical play that has become a theatrical masterpiece in black comedy.
This two act play is set in the Bogside area of Derry in 1994. It coincides with the annuncement of the IRA cease-fire in the North.
I went along last night knowing absolutely nothing about this production. Having only heard of it in recent weeks, I didn’t research as wanted to see with the naked eye and mind. My friend had seen it on its first production in Derry 12 years ago. 
As it opened I really wasn’t sure what to make of it. Packie Devlin was clearly meeting people from his past on the Derry docks. When it became clear he was dead, the setting of the now living room, took on a whole new meaning. 
I honestly think it’s hard to write about this production without giving it all away. This is one you really want to see for yourself on the stage. 
The idiom is very much based in the locale of Derry. The entire production is extrememly rooted in the city. And the one liners are just brillliant. There is oxymoron, anecdotes, black humour and then there’s simply, “ye ould bastard”! Never has swearing on the stage been so hillarious. 

From it’s onset to the final scene, you will break your side laughing. But underneath all the laughter and humour is a number of very serious issues. Packie’s Wake makes one stop and think about everyday life – the needless worries, the needless feuds, the needless envy – the grass isn’t always greener, and the enemy isn’t always the enemy. 
At the heart of this play is ‘family’. Family in a very real sense of the word. Family that have dispersed, and family that have fallen out. Death puts life in persepctive. Perhaps we can all learn a lesson from Packie. Don’t leave it too late to appreciate what we really have. Life really is for living.
My favourite line from last night must surely be: “sometimes the poorest of people have the most money.” How very true. Material wealth doesn’t make for all in life. Family does. Treasure yours.
Packie’s Wake runs at the Millennium Forum until this Saturday night, 15th October. One last piece of advice, if you decide to leave early, DON’T….just wait till the very end! This is over 3 hours long, but worth every minute. If it’s cheering up you need, or a really good reality check, go along to this. 


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