Bread and Circuses
What have the past five years been like for Dublin? What has happened to the City since the Troika came in? Whereto love in a cold economic climate? These questions and more are considered and answered in Philip Doherty’s and Gonzo Theatre’s entertaining ‘The Circus of Perseverance’, a mixture of song, dance, cabaret and narrative that packs a mighty punch. It never steers too far from the message that somehow in this messed up city, we try and persevere. If this makes a night out sound like tough going, it should be noted that this is, in parts, a very funny piece of writing.
The circus format, allowing a ring leader to play narrator, suits what turns out to be a witty and at times moving exposition on how things have gone FUBAR since the end of the Celtic Tiger. The circus allows for a kaleidoscope of different characters and emotions and Doherty and Gonzo provide these aplenty. We see Northside and Southside, love and hate (don’t think that term is copyrighted yet), fear and loathing (maybe that one is) and Love on the Dole (ok, that probably is). There’s a forensic eye turned on issues like racism and abortion.Looking for political commentary in the theatre? Look no further.
There are some really great on the money scenes – a recently split couple stick together under the same roof as neither can afford to move; a money-lender calls round to a debtor and can’t live with his ‘job’; a Priest suffers a crisis of faith. These are all pivotal; but there’s keenly observed attention to detail in lesser scenes too such as in a brilliantly funny portrait of fare evasion on the LUAS or when a TV Newsreader intones yet more depressing statistics. All are the backdrop to the economic collapse that’s hit this country like a steamroller over since 2008. Roll up and witness the decline of a city before your very eyes!
Credits should go to all: Pat O’Donnell brings his usual class act to his several roles, particularly as Fr Matthew; Kim McCafferty is outstanding as Maggie (a young mother who, well, you’ll have to see for yourself), a part she plays with great sensitivity. But all the cast and musicians hit their marks. By any good definition, great theatre should grab your attention and ‘The Circus of Perseverance’ easily scores on this level. This is a stylish production with a short run – try and catch it if you can.
The Circus of Perseverance runs at Smock Alley until Nov 30th.
Review by Dan O’Neill