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Oliver Cromwell Is Really Very Sorry review: This barnstorming musical deserves to run and run

Dublin Fringe Festival 2022: Xnthony’s hilarious, deceptively angry marvel smuggles polemic into its comic show-stoppers

Oliver Cromwell Is Really Very Sorry

Space Upstairs, Project Arts Centre

The creators of this fantastic new musical no doubt expect — and hope — to be told Oliver Cromwell would have hated every second. But would this version of the lord protector? Layering hi-NRG beats over lyrics stuffed with subversive jokes, the show presents Cromwell (played by Anthony Keigher, permanently stopping the show) as a mildly posh aspiring actor who gets railroaded into genocide and demagoguery.

The play allows him sympathy until sympathy becomes impossible. One can imagine that scenario inspiring an angry slice of agitprop in the 1970s style — and, yes, there is the thinnest sliver of Steven Berkoff here. But Keigher (who performs as Xnthony) and his flawless company are as interested in getting the audience stomping as poking through the grisly entrails of our islands’ unhappy past.

Nothing sums up the tone better than the creative paradox of a tightly choreographed, stubbornly impure number called Put Your Hands Up for Puritanism. Snappily directed by Sam Curtis Lindsay, and featuring great, varied songs by Ódú, this hilarious, deceptively angry marvel deserves a long life on stages of all sizes. Don’t miss.

Runs at Project Arts Centre, Dublin 2, until Saturday, September 24th, as part of Dublin Fringe Festival

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist