So, I went to Smock Alley last night to take a look at the opening night of The Roaring Banshees which was co-written by Peter McGahon and John Morton. This was the second installment in the ‘Ripping Yarn Trilogy’. it follows on from the The Hellfire Squad which was performed to sell out crowds and critical acclaim at the Project Arts Center in 2016. They writers are currently working on the third and final installment in the trilogy which will be called ‘The Folklore Commission’.
The play is set in Dublin and Chicago and follows the exploits of a crack squad/ rogue unit which was put together by Countess Markievicz ‘to do the errands that no other women would do’. This mainly meant killing a lot of people.
However, their civil war exploits come to an end with the failed attempt to kill Eamon DeValera which is where we take up the action. We first see the The Roaring Banshees while they are regrouping in a church as they decide what to do next.
From the first to the last moment, I was enthralled by the pure energy, comedy and brilliant acting and taken in by the thoroughly engaging plot. This play literally has everything. It is action packed from start to finish. For those of you who are big into physical theatre the use of the space in The Roaring Banshees is so good and a lot of credit for this must go to the director Sarah Baxter.
Although props are relatively limited the energy and presence of the actors makes the performance. Whether they are dancing the chorus line, running a speakeasy or having numerous shootouts with rival gangs they pace of the action and the movement of the actors has to be seen to be believed.
Another aspect of the play which deserves special mention is the lighting by John gunning. It plays a huge role at pivotal moments and whether it is in subtle and soft lighting of a tiny portion of the stage or absolutely blinding the audience at other occasions the effect is immense.
The direction by Sarah Baxter is also first rate. This is a performance with an awful lot of moving parts, scenes, costume changes, dancing and singing and it is all pulled off with aplomb. This is the second play that I have seen which was directed by Sarah recently and the other was the excellent These Stupid Things.
I tried to think if any of the actors deserved special mention but to be honest, it would be unfair to single anyone out. They were all truly excellent and they all took the characters from the writers and made them their own.
This was a cast who not only worked well as individual actors, they were also a superb group. The mix of accents, and character types added layers of depth to the play and each of the characters stood out in their own way. Also, the comic timing was always spot on which is a credit to all of them.
I don’t want to give any spoilers and will come back and add a bit more analysis once the run (the first of many I think) is over but I will say that some of the twists especially in the second half were brilliantly plotted and superbly brought to life.
By now you’ve probably got the sense that I enjoyed this. I did. I might even try and get back in again over the next few weeks to see it again.
Clodagh Mooney Duggan
Áine Ní Laoghaire
Written by: Peter McGann + John Morton
Directed by: Sarah Baxter
Produced by: Clara Purcell
Set & Costume Design: Áine O’Hara
Lighting Design: John Gunning
Stage Manager: Sinead Heavin
Assistant Director: Jill McKeagney
The production is brought to you courtesy of the Devious Theatre Company.