'It only takes a few muppets to screw a country'
A send-up of the boomtime glory days, with oversized puppets and plaintive laments for bacon and cabbage, started rehearsals in Dublin this week. Just don’t expect to see Seán FitzPatrick in the audience
A CLAIRVOYANT WHO works in a launderette in Roscommon says there are diamonds in the ground in the county. This is enough for Seán FitzPatrick as chairman of Anglo Irish Bank to sanction a big loan to fund an excavation project.
Disaster strikes when the miners find just a single diamond. FitzPatrick is furious, but he is told the value of the land has increased 20-fold during the excavation. FitzPatrick is ecstatic, declaring himself a genius banker.
This didn’t really happen, but such a deal seems plausible given the kind of reckless lending that Anglo engaged in during the boom years that landed the Irish public with a bill of €29 billion.
It’s in Anglo The Musical, the new satirical puppet musical that opens in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin on November 14th for a two-week run.
The show is not a blow-by-blow account of the rise and fall of Ireland’s worst bank, but a financial and political satire inspired by real events.
A simple couple – Diarmuid, who makes bodhráns, and Aisling, who works for the Department of Arts, Heritage, Greyhounds and What Have You – live on Inis Dull, which is a metaphor for pre-boom Ireland. Diarmuid’s cousin Jimmy arrives on the island to open a branch of Anglo.
“He warns them they are grossly under-borrowed and debt poor, and that they’re playing a dangerous game,” says the show’s writer, Paul Howard, the alter ego of the fictional D4 rugby jock and Irish Times columnist, Ross O’Carroll-Kelly.
Jimmy convinces Diarmuid to borrow €890 million from Anglo to build a block of apartments and a shopping centre, even though €450 million would have been enough. “Bet big or get the f**k away from the table,” Jimmy says. Events on the island happen in tandem with another plot: the story of the bank’s collapse on the mainland as markets turn against it and the boardroom gets increasingly chaotic.
It’s George Orwell meets Spitting Image or Avenue Q, the irreverent Broadway puppet-musical that sends up Sesame Street. “With Anglo, it’s difficult to parody because the reality was so insane,” says Howard.
It’s only the third day of four weeks of rehearsals at Gateway House studios on Capel Street in Dublin and already the 12 cast members have a good handle on the larger-than-life puppets they perform with. They run through one of 16 songs in the show. “Put A Zero On The End - He’s A Friend”. It has references to a corporate box at Lansdowne Road, as well as a repeated refrain, “Screw the regulator”, and observations on how “It only takes a few muppets to screw an entire country,” which is also the show’s catchline.