The Humours of Bandon – Bewley’s Café Theatre – Review
by Brian Merriman
Written by and Starring Margaret Mc Auliffe
Directed by Stefanie Preissner
Opens July 12th (Previews 11th) and plays until July 30th, 2022, Mon-Sat at 1pm (doors open at 12.50pm), with a show at 7pm on Thursday, July 21st
Duration: approx. 60 minutes
The 1992 Australian movie ‘Strictly Ballroom’ brought us behind the sequins, hairspray, fake tan and glamour of Ballroom and Latin American competitions, ripping off the saccharin coating to reveal the cut-throat competitiveness, ambition and lengths some will go to, to win the dance trophy.
Margaret McAuliffe in her powerhouse solo performance and funny storytelling, transports us to the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght, Dublin, in a fast-paced fizzing hour of dance, politics, fun and growing up. She is a winner too.
Simply set, in Bewley’s Café Theatre, the production values of actor, writer and director are triumphant in a seamless partnership of incisive character studies in a well-observed story about Irish dancing and coming of age.
Involvement in the arts is good for children’s development and the journey McAuliffe takes us on sets out to prove just that. Yes, we get an unfiltered insight into the hard work, the ringlets, the rules, politics, competitive instinct, parents, teachers and adjudicators of the juvenile dance world through an Irish lens. The balance between fun and drama happily swings like a pendulum from Annie O’Loughlin-Harte’s own ambitions to the pressure on her to fulfil the projected ambitions of others.
The many characters we meet are as expected with the supportive Mother, disinterested sister, driven former champion now teacher, best friend Tanya and fellow competitor Rita. It’s a multi-layered character study of the many components that drive a championship-winning dance performance, well delivered with a bonus of some fine dancing along the way.
McAuliffe makes the story and the stage her own and reminds us of the success of this play when it was first staged to acclaim in its Dublin Fringe debut in 2016. It is a timely and fresh revival and will certainly lift the spirits of any lunchtime theatregoer. We hear a lot about ‘Bonaparte’s retreat’. Our Annie shrinks from nothing, including using her training, not just to achieve but to grow, to assert her emerging adult self. Far from ‘retreating’, she sets her goals, plots her path, refines her strategy and emerges as a new ‘Annie’ celebrated in a brilliant modern soundtracked Irish dance finale. Riverdance watch out!