Theatre Review: Guaranteed! at the Axis, Ballymun, Dublin, Thursday 27th June, 2013

Originally published by, Friday 28th June, 2013. To read the original, please click here

Worth the gamble: Colin Murphy’s ‘Guaranteed!’

WRITTEN by journalist, documentary maker and one-time theatre critic Colin MurphyGuaranteed! takes an admirably neutral view of the events leading up to, and including, the night of September 29th, 2008 when Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Minister for Finance Brian Lenehan decided to guarantee Ireland’s banks to the tune of €440 billion.

The models for Guaranteed! are not what one expects from the outset: this is not the political satire of Yes Minister or The Thick of It, nor is it a truth-searching drama, the exploration of the inner workings of the political and media classes of All The President’s Men. Rather,Guaranteed! is a documentary theatre play that portrays its real-life characters as ordinary people out of their depth in extraordinary circumstances.

Played out over 90 minutes without an intermission, the events leading up to the night of the bank guarantee are told almost in full, each scene broken down into dates and places, which are helpfully displayed on an overhead projector. Thoroughly researched and faithfully executed, the success of Murphy’s documentary play is down to its refusal to judge those individuals involved in boom, the bust and the bank guarantee of the title. Murphy never feels the need to descend into pantomime by portraying the bankers as greedy and self-serving and the political class as venal and crass; instead, he accepts that audience members have, well and truly, made up their own character judgements of those individuals involved in Ireland’s economic fall. Furthermore,Murphy shows us events as they happened: he shows us, for example, how on September, 2008, those in Anglo and in the Central Bank were running around like headless chickens, Brian Lenehan’s stress levels were going off the charts and Brian Cowen was opening a hand-ball alley and crèche; he shows us the discord, before the guarantee, between the political and banking elite.

While the script-in-hand nature of the production might feel amateurish at the beginning; that is, that you do feel, moments into the play, that you are watching a live rehearsal, the scripts blend into the production to the point where they no longer look like crutches for actors who can’t remember their lines, but instead look like convincing props, skilfully used by an excellent ensemble cast who make the scripts look, at separate times, like speech notes, corporate reports and meeting minutes.

Unfortunate sacrifices are made to the script and certain elements of the collapse are missing: where are then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s infamous remarks in 2007 stating his disbelief those“on the sidelines who engage in cribbing and moaning” about the impending economic doom“don’t commit suicide”. The coalition partners of the government of the day, The Green Party, are also conspicuously missing from the action.

All that said, one has to admire the writer, the director and the cast for shoe-horning in a reference to the recently publicized Anglo Tapes. In a telling moment, which provides no short amount of humor and engagement with the audience, David “Drummer” Drum is asked where he got the figure of €7 billion. Those who have heard the tapes and read the reports of the Irish Independent’s story will know full-well from where that figure came.

A vital and engaging documentary theatre play, Guaranteed! is perhaps the most explicit production yet in Irish theatre that examines recent events in Ireland’s political and social histories, as well also the nature of the political and media classes that make up ‘Official Ireland’.

Star rating: 4 / 5
Review by: Philip Cummins
Venue: Axis, Ballymun

Wrtitten by: Colin Murphy
Directed by: Conall Morrison
Cast: Peter Daly, Peter Hanly, Darragh Kelly, Mark Lambert, Caitríona Ní Mhurchú

Guaranteed! tour dates:

Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray
28th June at 8pm. Tickets: €10.
Booking: 01 272 4030 /

Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford
29th June at 8pm. Tickets: €10.
Booking: 051 855038 /

Civic theatre, Dublin
1st & 2nd July at 8pm. Tickets: €10.

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