Theatre highlights: Unmanageable Sisters returns to the stage

Fionn Foley’s solo show Brendan Galileo for Europe onstage ahead of fringe outings

The Unmanageable Sisters
Abbey Theatre, Dublin. June 14th-August 3rd, 7.30pm

Deirdre Kinahan’s new version of Michel Tremblay’s ground-breaking play Les Belles-soeurs is a large ensemble piece which could almost be considered a choral performance. In 1968, it injected a rough, demotic French dialect to the polite Québécois stage, later finding an equivalently earthy Scots in translation. Here transplanted to 1974’s Ballymun, it is more inclined to delight in accents of kitsch than explore the voice of hardship.

In a neighbourhood “stamp-stickin’ party” hosted by Marion O’Dwyer’s lucky winner of a million Greenshield Stamps, we encounter a chorus of experience, where Kinahan affixes her nation’s stifling history to Tremblay’s catalogue of woes. For all the comedy of director Graham McLaren’s production, the play is a sadder study in victimhood, where Catholic shame makes the women serve as their own jailers. The production may intend to present them, finally, as proto-revolutionaries but, like the stamps, it doesn’t quite stick.

“Do I look like someone who’s ever won anything?” goes a common refrain, and even escapist pleasures sound so bittersweet: ornamental Chinese bookends say or, in one harmonic rhapsody, the orgasmic pleasures of bingo.

Brendan Galileo For Europe
Lyric Theatre, Belfast, June 15th, 8pm; Bewley's Café Theatre, Dublin
Preview: June 17th. Opens: June 18th-July 6th, 1pm

In what can only be considered a sensitive act of timing, Fionn Foley’s enjoyable solo show from last year has bided its time before returning to the stage. That interlude has allowed two crucial political events, both of which it depicts, to pass by without being unduly influenced by the one-man show’s comic potency.

Those events, the European Elections and the Eurovision Song Contest, share much in the way of high promises, raw ambition and defiant weirdness, but at least the Eurovision’s voting system makes sense.

Galway man Brendan Galileo manages to participate in both, bringing his intensely local concerns – for a motorway bypass that threatens his grandmother’s impossibly rickety music school and the loveable odd bodies who populate it – to a broadly continental platform.

Perhaps that mirrors the trajectory of the production too, directed by Jeda de Brí, which debuted as part of Show in a Bag at the Dublin Fringe Festival and now readies itself for dates in Dublin, Belfast and the Edinburgh Fringe. Competition in the latter, the world's biggest festival, may be steep, but as Brendan knows, enough energy, imagination and shameless rule-bending can make anyone a winner.

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