Blow Up The Liffey Bridges!

 

Grand Canal Theatre

WITHOUT WISHING to make any serious literary comparisons, Nicky Allt’s play is essentially a tale of two cities. The premise of this karaoke comedy is that of a city divided into stereotypes – where Northsiders are greasy-fingered gangs and Southsiders a vacuous, corrupt elite – but the two cities in question are really Liverpool and Dublin. Adapted from the 2006 play, Brick up the Mersey Tunnels!, Allt’s transposition is thorough, but something got lost in translation. “Well, I hear that River Liffey, rolling round the bend,” sing the cast, to the tune of Folsom Prison Blues for no determinable reason, “it used to be the Mersey, way back when…”

So begins a fictitious war between rival taxi companies, although in a presumably unconscious tribute, the more evil company is a genuine Dublin franchise, right down to the logo and telephone number (any sponsorship deal must have been a secondary consideration).

In the play, it is managed by an unmodulated ice queen with the catchphrase, “In the game of life, nobody plays Molly Carroll.” That’s sound casting advice, but the part goes to reality TV survivor, Vogue Williams, who “has never looked back since appearing on Fade Street” and who can blame her?

Her opponents are the Northside Fagans, led by a supposedly chip-obsessed grotesque in the bizarrely accented, trim form of Cora Fenton (I’m all for low humour, but the budget should have stretched to a fat suit). The Fagans form an alliance with three unemployed scouse builders (Kent Riley, Alan Stocks and Alexander Newland) who hatch a plan to blow up the Liffey bridges (actually they brick them up) causing traffic chaos rivalled only by the Queen’s visit.

Now, even without grating role call references to Dublin celebrities and reworded pop songs, this is several shades of awful.

Pub-grade comedy might work in an intimate setting, but director Tom Kibbe is at a loss in the gargantuan Grand Canal Theatre, where only Emmet Kirwan and Jane McGrath invest appropriate energy. Asking an audience familiar with Ross O’Carroll Kelly or plausible celebrity impersonations to accept such a dispiritingly cheap alternative is a bridge too far.

Ends tomorrow