It Stands Alone by John Breen. Ross Mollison Productions. Directed by Wayne Harrison. Canberra PlayhouseAugust 19-23, 2003.
"If you pay a visit to Ireland, you are taken in at first by all that extremely rapid, very clever kind of gabble; they talk and tell stories and are amusing for a while, but after a little time you discover the interest does not really sustain itself."
In my own self-defence, I quote a famous Irishman, George Bernard Shaw, who has written exactly my reaction to It Stands Alone. He wrote this in 1919; things haven't changed.
The story of how Munster defeated the All Blacks 12-0 in 1978 has been turned into a Mouse That Roared myth which John Breen takes as a given truth. The mawkish sentimental ending, singing Alone It Stands about this "little Isle" as if winning a football match gives Ireland all the dignity and freedom it deserves just turned my stomach.
Although the cleverly choreographed clowning and slapstick cameos which represented the football match were performed by the ensemble with considerable skill, and were suitably rewarded with laughter, the references to the real world outside football were made but were allowed to die on the vine when they should have grown to significant fruition.
The death of Donal Canniffe's father from heart attack while his son was on the field was not tragic (as claimed by the author in his notes): it was no more than a case of unfortunate timing. Gerry's failure to be with his wife for the birth of their twins was turned into a weak joke about the names she gives them. A brief discussion about Ireland glorifying its failures disappeared without a trace of development after it got its laugh. And the parallel story of the young teenager gangs' bonfire competition wasn't even funny. When the fire was lit and explosions of bullets nicked from one of the terrorist groups made the kids duck for cover, there was an opportunity for some real satire, or a dramatic shift into tragedy. But absolutely nothing happened. The next little cameo joke appeared and all reality was forgotten.
Go along for a humorous replay of a rugby game with a few standard jokes about sheep in New Zealand and some rough language concerning various kinds of balls, but don't bother if you want to see anything subtle, theatrically exciting or seriously satirical. Don't blame the actors: they're as good or rather better than the script allows them to be.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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