The Fall of the Second Republic – Abbey Theatre – Review
24 February – 14 March 2020
By Michael West in collaboration with Annie Ryan
A Corn Exchange and Abbey Theatre co-production
The proposed International Banking Centre building offers a vision of a new Ireland, a place of prosperity and wealth, although maybe more so for the Taoiseach Manny Spillane (Andrew Bennett) than the rest of us. The Theatre Royal is a beautiful old building that has fallen into disrepair. It has been derelict for many years and needs renovation. The owners have applied for planning permission to knock the building down to make way for the new banking centre. This has met with opposition from a variety of parties who wish to preserve the site. However, when the building goes on fire, one intrepid journalist, Emer Hackett (Caitríona Ennis), sets out in search of the truth as to what really happened on the night of the fire. She fears one man lies behind these events, a well-known developer by the name of Tom Carney (Declan Conlon).
This is a new play that tries to poke fun at the crooked politicians of Ireland in the 1970s. A world where a single brown envelope could achieve ten times what normal procedures could ever hope to. There is a touch of farce in the air and the characters are heightened versions of reality. While some elements of the plot may reflect events that happened in real life, it is in no way based on fact. The play is set after a general election and there is even talk of a Grand coalition between the two biggest parties, in what may prove to be a prophetic plot point!
There are two main storylines in the play, the first focuses on Emer and the press office where she works. The second is the world of politics and Manny Spillane. Emer is a young and ambitious journalist who is fighting against the male-dominated society of the time. Her boyfriend Finbar (John Doran) is another journalist at the paper, and their relationship has reached something of a crunch point. Finbar has been offered the prime job of the paper’s Northern Ireland correspondent and is thinking of leaving her behind. The world of Manny Spillane is a different story, as the politician tries to keep control of his party and the country!
Saileóg O’Halloran does an impressive job as costume designer, as the stage is filled with the type of dowdy greys, greens and browns that made the 70s the decade that fashion forgot. The set (by Katie Davenport) provides an adaptable office environment, that suits both the world of politics and journalism.
The play starts with subtle humour that gets darker and more extreme as it progresses. It is difficult to parody politics in our modern age, as many things we see in the Dáil, Westminster or Washington are well beyond the bounds of possibility on stage. The play may have been better served with a more conventional plotline that didn’t feel the need for the bizarre. The most interesting part of the production is the fine cast, most of whom play two or more characters. Actors leave one scene and enter the next seconds later in an entirely different guise. You can tell the cast are enjoying the madness and indulge in it. Caitríona Ennis and John Doran are two fine young actors who deserve their time in the limelight, whereas old hands such as Andrew Bennett (the voice of many a bank advert) imbues the part of Manny with the necessary authority and guile.
Manny Spillane T.D. and Con: Andrew Bennett
Tom Carney and Billy Kinlan T.D.: Declan Conlon
Finbar Lowe and Des Lackin T.D.: John Doran
Emer Hackett: Caitríona Ennis
Goretti Horan, Síle Foyle T.D. and Peggy Morgan: Anna Healy
Maeve Spillane-Lackin, Secretary Lunny and Sharon: Camille Lucy Ross
Oonagh Cassidy T.D. and Joan Walsh: Niamh McCann
Florry Daniels T.D., Mick Keogh and others: Eddie Murphy
Mossie Daniels T.D., Ed Buttimer and Garda Muldoon: Patrick Ryan
Writer: Michael West
Director: Annie Ryan
Set Design: Katie Davenport
Costume Design: Saileóg O’Halloran
Lighting Design: Sinéad Wallace
Sound Design and Composition: Denis Clohessy
Video Design: Jose Miguel Jimenez
Voice Director: Andrea Ainsworth
Producer (Corn Exchange): Aisling Ormonde