Ailliliãú Fionnuala


TheatreUpstairs@Lanigan’s Bar, Dublin Until Nov 17 1pm €10/€8 085-7727375

It says something about the balance of politics and fantasy in Donal O’Kelly’s new solo play about the Shell Corrib gas project that its most implausible detail is completely real. This is not the play’s plot, which involves an intervention from one of the Children of Lír, but the name given to Shell’s 500-tonne Tunnel Boring Machine, which they christened Fionnuala. Where ever you stand on the controversial project, which has now begun its final phase, that cynical appropriation of regional symbolism beggars belief. Truth is stranger than friction.

It also provides the starting point for O’Kelly’s drama, which takes the reference to a folkloric conclusion: Shell employee Ambrose Keogh (played by O’Kelly, left) comes face to face with the Fionnuala of legend, who enchants him to tell the truth about Shell’s activities by using a geis – the mythological equivalent of sodium penthathol.

There’s little doubt about where O’Kelly stands on the environmental politics, but this production, directed by Sorcha Fox and designed by Robert Ballagh, appears to be drilling deeper into ideas of a stifled democracy. It’s easy to be cynical about the pipeline, but its more important for a dramatist to engage with it with imagination; to represent Fionnuala without it becoming a bore.

* The foyer of TheatreUpstairs is hosting an exhibition of photos by William Hederman documenting seven years of the campaign against Shell in north Mayo

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