Friday, September 16, 2016

Margaret McAuliffe, ‘The Humours of Bandon’: Bonaparte’s Retreat

Margaret McAuliffe takes us behind the scenes of an Irish dancing championship in an excellent drama about adolescence.

Bewley's Cafe Theatre @ Powerscourt, Tiger Dublin Fringe
Sept 14-24

A quick review of The Humours of Bandon by Margaret McAuliffe coming up just as soon as I trust what you say about my costume …

Long before the broad-chested and high-kicking Michael Flatley set foot in Riverdance, Irish dancers were cutting their teeth in parochial halls to place in national championships. Margaret McAuliffe’s excellent new play, produced as part of Fishamble’s Show in the Bag series, ushers us to backstage rituals of painfully rolling hair curlers and sussing out the competition. The path to the first place podium is a gruelling one.

McAuliffe, who also acts and dances, offers a nice range of perspectives. An uptight teenager, believing life should work to formula, thinks she’s cracked the secret to a first place win. An endlessly supportive mother, God love her, hasn’t a clue about the finer details.

But adolescence is a time of self-discovery, and McAuliffe draws a brilliant epiphany about young people taking themselves too seriously. The ruthless politics of the competition come into focus. That journey isn’t just funny under Stefanie Preissner’s direction but resilient. “Bonaparte’s Retreat, alight” decides McAuliffe’s dancer as she scrolls over music for her performance, in a sure choice of fight over flight. Forget first place; this sweet tribute to sorority has serious floor-cutting chops.

What did everybody else think?

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