Theatre reviews: Galway Arts Festival

Wil Johnson plays Dr Ibrahim Bihi in Julian Gough’s The Great Goat Bubble.

Wil Johnson plays Dr Ibrahim Bihi in Julian Gough’s The Great Goat Bubble.

JULIAN GOUGH’S The Great Goat Bubble first saw the light of day as an article for The Financial Times in 2003.

Both a madcap fantasy and a razor-sharp satire on financial market shenanigans, Gough’s story subsequently re-appeared in his novel Jude in London and was adapted as a radio play for the BBC. It now comes to the stage in a co-production between Fishamble Theatre Company and Galway Arts Festival.

The play is set in Ballinasloe train station where Somali economist Dr Ibrahim Bihi falls into conversation with Jude, the Tipperary orphan and chief protagonist of Gough’s two wonderful comic novels.

Dr Bihi relates the wild and wacky tale of how, starting out with only two goats, he triggered a stock market trading frenzy in all things to do with the four-footed bleating critters which creates an economic boom in Somalia.

The parallels with recent events in Ireland are all too evident and one has to salute Gough’s prescience in first penning this scenario while the Celtic Tiger was still a mere frisky cub. His story is also very clever and very funny and yet it has to be said it does not quite manage the transition from page to stage. For all its genuine comic brilliance it remains at heart an essay or lecture and is theatrically inert.

Even director Mikel Murfi, who has often shown his flair for physically dynamic shows, cannot pull off the trick of transforming Goat Bubble from prose to drama. He is, however, well served by his cast with both Will Johnson (Dr Bihi ), and Ciaran O’Brien (Jude ) putting in sterling performances.

LAST SHOT Redemption, at St Nicholas’s Collegiate Church is a co-production between Catastrophe Theatre Company and Chrysalis Dance Company and was first conceived as a sequel to Love and Other Disguises which the two companies co-presented at the 2007 arts festival.

Like that show, Last Shot Redemption is written by Colm Maher, directed by Paul Hayes, choreographed by Judith Sibley, and features the music of Mundy.

Where the first play revolved around a wedding, this sequel centres on a christening, feuding families, and a fallen angel, Gadriel, who has to try and smooth out all the disputes in order to earn his wings and get back to Heaven.

As before, this play features a blend of dance, drama, music, humour, and suspense and while there is plenty to enjoy overall this is a patchier show, suffering from some flimsy plotting. Duncan LeCroix plays Gadriel with delightful zest and relish.

THE NATIONAL Theatre of Scotland are in the Radisson Lounge with The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart which lets audiences share a lock-in with the NTS’s company of actors and musicians and revel in an evening of supernatural storytelling, music and theatre.

In the play, Prudencia Hart is an academic collector of folk songs who comes to Kelso to research material for her thesis on the border ballads, a trip which first leads her to a session in a local bar and then an encounter with the Devil himself.

Written by David Greig - in rhyming couplets - Prudencia Hart is a rollicking blend of music (ranging from folk ballads to Kylie Minogue ), satire on academia, and boisterous humour. At two and a half hours, there are a few longeurs where the play sags a but they are far outweighed by its many pleasures.

While it was devised to be staged in pubs and village halls, it has to be said, the play is ill served by being presented in the soulless environs of the Radisson Lounge and the NTS cast do wonders in battling against the venue’s lack of atmosphere.

The opening speeches at the arts festival launch talked about how the festival seeks to provide a perfect platform for the visiting artists but that certainly was not the case with this show. Still, well worth seeing though!


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