With creative staging, an intricate story arc and engaging performance by Molly O’Shea, Miss Fortunate tackles a difficult and personal subject matter with sensitivity – but the split-character and emotional audience addresses run their course about two thirds of the way through and slightly desensitise the audience for the remainder.
Full disclosure: my mother also died of cancer when I was 21. I was not left an orphan or without siblings, but the similarity of story is what initially intrigued me about Miss Fortune. I want to be upfront that this review may be skewed by the fact that I have a shared experience with O’Shea. I took a friend along who has not had the same experience for some objective clarity – but in the end, it’s still me writing this.
Molly O’Shea’s impressive 50-minute show details the aftermath of her mother’s death at the age of 21, and the impact that it has on her. Her central character is split between two personalities in their reaction to the event and handling of their grief: the American-accented, rose-tinted, hopeless romantic and the down-to-earth, sarcastic British orphan who tells it like it is. The dichotomy works incredibly well, initially at least. We meet American O’Shea falling for the most handsome, generous and kind man at her mother’s wake and then cut to British O’Shea who commentates on how weird it is that she went home and f*cked a stranger from her mother’s funeral.
The show continues in a see-saw like fashion between these two characters, and clever writing weaves in exploration of the theoretical concept of grief and its effects – especially in a mother-daughter relationship. Proceedings are balanced, however, with comical undertones about how many death certificates you need and – my favourite – the comparison of a crematorium furnace and a household oven and how a person’s ashes is mainly just cardboard and left over residue from past people or meals… It has made me look at my mother’s urn in a different light, I have to say.
Whilst this dichotomy is interesting, there’s an identifiable point (and one that occurs a little too early on) where you get a little too used to it. The two characters began to merge and the emotional, metaphor-filled speeches about grief begin to lengthen. It’s an important resolution to the story arc, undeniably, because both characters are sides of O’Shea and it’s inevitable that they must come together at some point. However, it happens perhaps 20 minutes prematurely and as difficult as it is to admit, I found myself becoming desensitised to what she was saying. I could feel myself stop caring.
I was more interested, and wished more attention had been payed, to her relationship with the man she met at her mother’s funeral. We saw her identifying him as her ‘saviour’ in a time or need and then changing perspective to highlight the kicks he got out of her grief and his controlling nature. So much so that it made me realised her ‘stage hand’ turn ‘love interest’ was actually subtly running the show, and taking the power away from her story – a fascinating element which felt under-explored. I found this dynamic in friends, family, and relationships around the time of my mother’s death and would be interested to see this given more attention.
Overall, I was impressed by O’Shea’s talent, confidence in tackling such a difficult topic so close to home and ability to draw generalisations and universal insights from her personal experiences. I’m intrigued as to, and will be following, what she creates in the future – where she both keeps her personal experiences in, and takes them out of, the mix.