The Roaring Banshees – Smock Alley – Review
by Letizia Delmastro
The Roaring Banshees is the story of a unit of seven women, members of Cumann na mBán, the all-female party that fought during the 1916 rising in Ireland. When their organization is banned by the Free State, they plan to kill Eamonn De Valera.
And it’s just after this failed attack that we meet all seven of them, slowly gathering in a church, cradling guns wrapped in sheets to pass for babies, mulling over how badly the attempt went and what to do next. One option seems appealing, sail to the USA to sell Poteen in a prohibition-struck Chicago that’s starved of alcohol. The plan seems to go smoothly and over some unnecessarily nostalgic exchanges on the boat, the seven land in Chicago. There they are quick to find who’s running the bootleg market and to affiliate themselves with them.
And so the seven thrive, dance, drink and discover cocaine. They enjoy themselves and sell bootleg Poteen thanks to their affiliation with Italian mafia boss Al Capone, finally going all the way to opening their very own speakeasy “The Shebeen”. All seems to go well, until an unplanned homicide forces them to take to the road again and to question who they really trust.
Although well written, The Roaring Banshees fails to deliver the gritty and gripping tale that was promised. The cast mostly performed well but the story is too long and complicated, with alliances constantly shifting. Some moments of humour land, as one member refuses to use American slang, or another’s infatuation with Charlie Chaplin, but the pace of the story is relentless and it soon becomes difficult to follow.
Promised as an action-packed tale of fierce women who only do their own bidding, The Roaring Banshees delivered and failed at the same time. The women are fierce, but they are also unconvincing when wielding guns. The story shifts from a tale of independence to a fight between feminism and the desire to be a mother, passing through women’s addictions, quirks, past histories and alliances. I would hope to blame all that didn’t work on opening night nerves, and that ‘The Roaring Banshees’ could develop later in the run to deliver what could be an intriguing story of public and personal conflict.
Clodagh Mooney Duggan
Áine Ní Laoghaire
Written by: Peter McGann + John Morton
Directed by: Sarah Baxter
Produced by: Clara Purcell
Set & Costume Design: Áine O’Hara
Lighting Design: John Gunning
Stage Manager: Sinead Heavin
Assistant Director: Jill McKeagney