Maeve Binchy fans — and anyone who likes a heart-warming drama — will enjoy this adaptation by Shay Linehan of the bestselling author’s 2010 novel. Directed by Peter Sheridan, it stars Noel Lynch as an alcoholic, who is literally left holding the baby after receiving a call to say that a woman called Stella, with whom he had a drunken fling at a rock concert, wants to see him, in hospital.
Stella, who says she is carrying Noel’s child, has cancer and won’t survive the caesarean section she has to undergo. She desperately wants Noel to care for the child, a girl, whom she has already named as Frankie.
Steve Blount as Noel gives a gently humorous performance with moments of nervous giddiness. He is a bit of a fool, as he admits himself. Initially freaked out at the thought of becoming a father, he comes around to the idea, seeing it as a chance to do something with his life “apart from sitting on a bar stool and dreaming”.
But there is social worker, Moira Tierney, to contend with. Moira, well played by Clare Barrett (who also plays Stella), is hyper vigilant. She is keen to organise foster parents for Frankie and has a family in mind in her native Ballinasloe.
She has her own agenda and what ensues between Moira and Noel is a battle of wills.
Moira is obviously concerned about Noel’s drinking problem. But he, aware of his responsibilities, joins Alcoholics Anonymous, and has one spectacular fall off the wagon. “An accident waiting to happen” is how Moira describes Noel — and it’s not surprising that an accident occurs, given Noel’s extreme nervousness around the newborn baby.
Throw into the mix a question mark as to the paternity of Frankie and DNA testing as well as letters from Stella to Noel and Frankie.
This is a well-made play with a decent plot twist. It has moments of sentimentality but is robust enough not to descend into mawkishness. It’s about a man who wants to become “the best mother I could ever be”.
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