Bewley’s Cafe Theatre
To a young generation for whom the Troubles are not even a memory, life can seem like a shared universe joining up messy history with popular culture. “I felt like this was my Peter Parker moment,” says Ger, recalling an ambition to become a masked gunman protecting his Northern Irish village from Protestants, as if it were an enthralling Marvel Cinematic Universe fantasy.
Columbia March, a dark comedy by the playwright and actor Joe Wright, uses such zany references in its tale of a shop assistant fantasising about uniting Ireland. Its idiosyncrasies have fixed sources, particularly the last decade’s West End breakout The Play That Goes Wrong, as a stage manager (Eoin O’Sullivan) steps in to clumsily play characters belonging to an English cast too wrecked from drinking in Temple Bar to show up – which itself seems a mordant joke on interisland history.
That gives the impression of both a production and a man’s life being intercepted. As in his 2018 play, Astronaut, which saw a man’s childhood dream of space exploration vanish into the cold reality of adult homelessness, Wright is interested in derailed childhoods. Ger reveals how he lost his parents at a young age and came to worship a local businessman whose drug dealing is dressed up in paramilitary nostalgia, in mysterious agents and in undercover dead drops.
The greater goal seems to be a satire of machismo. If he seemed lithe in Astronaut, Wright uses his impressive brawn to portray Ger as a man-child flexing uselessly against his frustrations. Growing up is hard.
Continues at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, as part of Dublin Fringe Festival, until Saturday, September 23rd