A Holy Show – Dublin Fringe Festival – Review by Lesley-Ann Whelan
A Holy Show by Janet Moran, Peacock Theatre 8-15 September as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival.
It’s hard to believe that 37 years ago an Aer Lingus flight, EI164 from Dublin to London, was hijacked by an Australian passenger. Laurence Downey, a former Trappist monk who had been expelled from the order for punching the superior in the face, and was at the time living in Churchtown in South Dublin. He doused his clothes in water and told the crew that he was covered in petrol and had vials of cyanide gas on him. He demanded that the plane by diverted to Tehran as he had drafted a new constitution that he wanted to deliver personally to the Iranian people. The crew explained that they wouldn’t have enough fuel for such a long journey and they would need to land in France to refuel. Then, Downey had a new request: that the third secret of Fatima be revealed to him.
Janet Moran, writer and director of A Holy Show, wrote the play after seeing the news footage of the hijacking on Reeling in the Years and thought it would make a great comedy. And it does. Cleverly written as a two-hander, Caitriona Ennis and Patrick Moy play all the characters on the flight, the Virgin Mary and the children in Fatima who were given the three secrets through a Marian apparition in 1917.
Each character has their counterpoint: the Ulsterman fleeing the troubles sitting with the young female would-be novice, the honeymoon couple full of anxiety about their first time together, a spinster aunt and her matriarchal sister going to visit the latest grandchild, bickering air crew, an obnoxious city boy and his PA who demands a better life and finally Downey sitting with a mother and child, travelling to see Dad who works in England, a testament 80’s emigration. Moran cleverly uses actual footage from Reeling in the Years to show us the real people that Ennis and Moy have been portraying very faithfully.
Ennis and Moy are a dream team, and Moran has said that she managed to get the two best actors she knows for her writing debut. They physically inhabit each new character at breakneck speed making each one completely believable and unique. There is also an enviable creative team behind the scenes. The audience last night was completely enchanted by the play and time travelled back to a pre-Ryanair, 80’s Ireland, where flying was prohibitively expensive but you got a free drink and could smoke on board! Not to be missed.