The Assassination of Pope Urban II – Smock Alley – Dublin Fringe Festival – Review
Tickets €11 – Dates Sep 20 – 23 @ 18:45
Tickets €14/ €12 conc. – Duration 60 mins – Other performance Sep 23 @ 14:15
Venue: Smock Alley Theatre Boys’ School
Pope Urban II had a truly fascinating life story. He was born in 1042 and grew up in a graveyard. Later, he travelled to the Vatican and was elected Pope, in a true rages to riches story. It’s a bizarre tale that is hard to believe… or maybe James Moran made the whole thing up!
In case you’re wondering, there was a real Pope Urban II. He was the Pope that initiated the first crusade in 1096, amongst other things. If you are looking for facts about the Pope’s life, there are several good books on the topic. This short play, however, is not be a good place to start!
James Moran is a comedian and playwright, of sorts. This production involved a short reading from an obscure Irish text about a man who became a priest. There’s also a reading from an original play by James. The play has two distinct story lines. One is about the child that would become Pope Urban. We hear of his time in hospital shortly after being born. There is also another story of a number of brains kept alive in a secure facility in Lusk. The delivery is without intonation and he repeatedly checks his phone to see how he is doing for time. There is a feeling he would rather be somewhere else!
There was also a guest appearance by Dick Walsh. It was this moment when things slowly started to make sense. Dick has collaborated with Pan Pan on a number of occasions and is a fan of the absurd. Those uniquely awkward moments where a live audience isn’t sure how to react, to laugh or throw things. Dick gave a free-form stand-up comedy routine in the character of Pope Urban, talking of his many ailments and mishaps. Despite it all, he seemed quite chipper and upbeat.
There is nothing traditional about this performance and really there is little point in dismantling its finer points. The aim of the production was to confuse and bemuse, and they achieved their goal. Experimental theatre is always a challenge and this is no different. Definitely one of the stranger performances in the Fringe!