Tuesday, September 19, 2006

REVIEW: The Unfortunate Machine-Gunning of Anwar Sadat (Players Theatre, Dublin)

If Irish history were, indeed, a nightmare it would go something like this. A crackpot/shellshocked survivor of the trenches of The Great War is forced to lead a group of deluded volunteers (who secretly yearn to be British) in an surreal Christmas rising, the aim of which is simply to make sure the slaughter of the whole village takes a few minutes longer than it did in previous aborted revolutions. And that is just the first act of Conall Quinn's surreal comedy.

The author is not quite happy with the term absurdist, but his drama plays very much as an Irish take on Unesco, or Edward Albee. It makes its own logic and encourages the audience to abandon their usual habits of thought (or at least usual habits of playwatching) as it rapidly transports us from a farmhouse in 1916, to an Ireland of the near future, where one of the key objectives is to make sure that golf is no longer played by the rules of Sharia law.

The plays success comes from the fact that it is able to be ludicrous, without ever being ridiculous. Director David Horan and his cast work through elements – stop-start acting, slow-motion cinematic 'wipes,' dances and songs – that might easily have brought a lesser show to its knees. But Quinn's script bubbles with so much serendipity, intelligence and humour, that it is easy to give a little leeway in the stickier moments.

The small, energetic cast are not always as sharp as they might be, with a certain amount of warming up appearing to happen on stage. Once everybody is up to speed, however, this remarkable surreal satire spins with vicious energy.

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