Free EU Roaming – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre – Review by Frank L.
Written by Sinead Brady, Caroline Galvis and Katie O’Byrne
Until 30th March 2019
Originally seen in the Dublin Fringe Festival 2018, this piece is written and performed by an Irish woman (Katie O’Byrne), a British woman (Sinead Brady) and a German woman (Caroline Galvis). The three protagonists are trapped in a hostel unable to attend a music festival in Barcelona because a Catalan independence street demonstration rages outside. The hostel is suitably furnished with three simple cuboid shapes on which the actors can sit. Whether they like it or not, the young women are forced into each other’s company as the violence continues in the streets.
Apart from the immediate concern of which band they are missing and seeking a good pic for Instagram, the three women start talking about their own identity and how they are perceived by foreigners. They course over recent history such as Marriage Equality and Brexit. However, they also address the negative connotations such as a German still faces if she were to state confidently that ‘I am German’ in comparison to a woman from Ireland stating with pride ‘I am Irish’. Since the play was written last year the British section dealing with the Byzantine twists and turns of the Brexit debate are even more appropriate as the political shambles continues in Westminster.
Of course, one of the valuable every day successes of the EU is Free Roaming which is a benefit to all. These three actors’ collaboration in this piece of theatre symbolise too the not often lauded, quiet successes of the European project. Their collaboration began in Barcelona and has continued in Dublin. Each of them is sufficiently young to have lived their entire lives within the EU or its predecessors. The play seeks to understand the national stereotypes that continue to exist for each country as set against the various freedoms that the EU has tried, successfully or not so successfully, to create. The play does attempt to present the complexity of all this rich material of national difference.
The three actors handle this complicated information with insight. They are the younger generation who are concerned about more than just the latest fashion obsessions. Given the cultural differences between the three countries and the effect of belonging to the European Union, there is a great deal of material to be presented and digested in a mere sixty minutes. Inevitably, as a result of the scale of what they are trying to convey, there is a certain amount of leaping, grass hopper like, from one topic to another.
However, there is a terrific sense of common purpose between the three actors given their own different cultural backgrounds. This common purpose gives an integrity to their text. In addition, their own well-drilled routine ensures that there is not a moment of slack. This is theatre that celebrates more than one identity in the cultural kaleidoscope of Europe. It is both fun and serious. It is a fine antidote to a particular nationalist rhetoric which so often can drown out everything else. In short, here is a troupe of three young actors showing a generous way forward into a more diverse society. Thank goodness for that.