Iron Annie review: Scuzzy, anarchic gig theatre

Study of youth, queer love, and two damaged young women in a border town

Iron Annie

Smock Alley

Rating: 3/5

Border towns occupy a particular place in the Irish psych. Sitting on the cusp of north and south, in the imagination of writers like Pat McCabe and now Luke Cassidy, they are full of depravity, danger and split personalities. Adapted from Cassidy’s novel of the same name, Iron Annie is set in the “big black spider” town of Dundalk, and it is rich in this dichotomy; a study of youth, queer love, and two damaged young women, who together might make a whole.

Drug dealer Aoife (Georgia Cooney) introduces us to Annie, a tantalising trickster who seduces her in the guise of a man. Sexy and slippery, Annie becomes Aoife’s partner in life and in crime. The two women are the central characters, but Cassidy has a gift for characterisation and Aoife’s monologue is full of memorable walk-on parts — “peacock prick” Pól; a priest “summoning the spirit of the 1950s”; the duplicitous Rat King with his cosseted pet — which Cooney delivers with a playful, good-natured wink and nod.

The narrative-heavy, first-person performance is enlivened by the music of False Slag, a live punk band that perform a substantial repertoire of songs that underscore the anarchic energy of the plot, as well as complementary sound effects throughout. Songs by The Dandelion Few, performed by Annie June Callaghan on acoustic guitar, add a beguiling, softening effect that is slowly revealed to be the spirit and shape of Annie herself.

If there is a scrappy, anarchic feel to this piece of gig theatre — staged on a vomit-stained step against a corrugated iron backdrop — Rhian Jeffrey’s production is the better for it. There is nothing polished about the scuzzy, cruddy Dundalk underworld that Cassidy portrays. All the same, there is love and there is beauty.


Runs until Saturday. Then Accidental Theatre, July 29th-30th; Spirit Store, Dundalk, Aug 6th; Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh, Aug 24th,

Sara Keating

Sara Keating

Sara Keating, a contributor to The Irish Times, is an arts and features writer